By Jo Shapcott b. 1953 Jo Shapcott
Can the bald lie? The nature of the skin says not:
it's newborn-pale, erection-tender stuff,
every thought visible,—pure knowledge,
mind in action—shining through the skull.
I saw one, a woman, hairless absolute, cleaning.
She mopped the green floor, dusted bookshelves,
all cloth and concentration, Queen of the moon.
You can tell, with the bald, that the air
speaks to them differently, touches their heads
with exquisite expression. As she danced
her laundry dance with the motes, everything
she ever knew skittered under her scalp.
It was clear just from the texture of her head,
she was about to raise her arms to the sky;
I covered my ears as she prepared to sing, roar,
to let the big win resonate in the little room.

Source: Poetry (June 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

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June 2004


Jo Shapcott was born in London, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and later won a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard University. She is the author of ten books of poetry, including Of Mutability (2010), winner of the Costa Book Award; My Life Asleep (1999), winner of the Foreward Poetry Prize; Phrase Book (1992); and Electroplating the Baby (1988), winner of the Commonwealth Prize. She is twice a . . .

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