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By 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 Bio

Jay Wright
Jay Wright, an African-American poet, essayist, dramaturge, and theologian, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Academy of American Poets awarded Wright the Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement and in bestowing the award, J.D. McClatchy commented, “Jay Wright’s books have appeared like summer lightning, sudden and unexpected, brilliant in the surrounding dark.” He has written ten books of poetry and a play. Before he became a poet and studied comparative literature, he played semi-pro baseball with the San Diego Padres. See More By This Poet

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