The Healing Improvisation of Hair

By Jay Wright b. 1935 Jay Wright
If you undo your do you would
be strange. Hair has been on my mind.   
I used to lean in the doorway
and watch my stony woman wind
the copper through the black, and play
with my understanding, show me she cóuld   
take a cup of river water,
and watch it shimmy, watch it change,
turn around and become ash bone.   
Wind in the cottonwoods wakes me   
to a day so thin its breastbone   
shows, so paid out it shakes me free   
of its blue dust. I will arrange   
that river water, bottom juice.   
I conjure my head in the stream   
and ride with the silk feel of it
as my woman bathes me, and shaves   
away the scorn, sponges the grit   
of solitude from my skin, laves   
the salt water of self-esteem   
over my feathering body.
How like joy to come upon me   
in remembering a head of hair   
and the way water would caress   
it, and stress beauty in the flair   
and cut of the only witness
to my dance under sorrow's tree.
This swift darkness is spring's first hour.

I carried my life, like a stone,   
in a ragged pocket, but I
had a true weaving song, a sly   
way with rhythm, a healing tone.

Jay Wright, “The Healing Improvisation of Hair” from Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

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Poet Jay Wright b. 1935

Subjects Men & Women, Love, Relationships, Romantic Love, Heartache & Loss

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 Jay  Wright

Biography

Frequently described as a “poet’s poet,” Jay Wright has quietly built an impressive career as one of America’s leading African-American voices. His work, praised for its evocative language, introspective tone, and mythological imagery, has won many honors, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, and Yale’s prestigious Bollingen Prize. Wright’s plays, essays, and poetry generally . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Men & Women, Love, Relationships, Romantic Love, Heartache & Loss

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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