A Crown of White Hair


Anita Endrezze

"what you long for is in the longing"

You're tall: you won't have to bend
to see how my white hair is a lace mantilla,
or a bouquet of leggy-stemmed white bluebells.

They say hair grows long after
a woman dies, and her nails like 20 flat shells
sound like the sea curving into the earth.

But I'm alive and as we sleep
my white hair flows out to the man I married,
you, who seldom offer me dreams,

keeping your passion in a locked box but once
you broke out in a rash from eating too many peaches.
I wish I was a peach, husband.

I'm not old. I could pull out all the white hairs
like splinters. I could bind up my hair with red combs
that so dazzle the eye you wouldn't see who I am.

Or I could color my hair the shade of bees
as they fly in curtains over marigolds.
At the high school I saw a girl with purple henna hair

and remember how once girls dyed the bottom of their feet
and mothers painted wavy blue lines on their daughters' chins
and how we decorate our lives with small delights

to help our senses live joyously. We must talk,
husband. Do you need help to wake up?
Should I dye my hair the color of peaches?

Or just let my hair grow a pale shadow
I can fall in love with, and bear him children
who laugh in their hands, the pink light

of morning wreathing their hair. And if he turns to me,
one hand on his cheek, the other on my shoulder,
and blows gently on my white hair, whispering,

so that I am not a room alone in my life
but filled with lavender and green candles glowing,
will you see I'm not furniture, clumsy in the dark,

nor a shape you pat on the head as you go out the door,
but will you stop, and take a deep breath
and ask yourself why life is so vivid,

and why we don't lie naked in a bath of peach juice?
I know you're practical and think how messy it'd be,
and where would we get so many peaches

and how long would it take to squeeze out the juice,
rolling the fruit between our palms, over my breasts,
across your thighs. You'd rather not.

Really. It doesn't sound pleasant. It sounds... silly.
It may be romantic, but it's not you.
You like me the way I am. I can dye my hair

or not. It's up to me. You dare not say
it doesn't matter to you. You know I'd turn away,
hurt. Mad. You're husband enough to know

that you must have an opinion,
lest I accuse you of not caring.
It's a moment of exasperation

that lasts for years. It's our opposite natures:
the way your hair curls over the edge of your collar
and you bow your head in one of your terrible headaches

and leave the room to put a cloth of cold water
over your eyes, and the way I ponder about painting the walls
with marble eyes and whirls of antelope horns

and wonder if love has been where my hands meet
and if the scent of rose water rises from my wrists
as I finish this poem and roll it up, tying it

with strands of white hair, placing it under your pillow
so that your dreams are sinuous, and I'm a dark dancer
in snowy silk offering a crown of lost hearts,

my eyes looking somewhere beyond you,
the way a mountain looks around a tree,
the way a woman looks at marriage.

© 2002 Anita Endrezze

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