Art Gephyr

Dirty hair

She hadn't washed her hair
for over three weeks.
The back was most revealing--
matted, oily from the pillow,
hours reclining, watching TV.

She missed her appointments:
Last week the car broke down.
The week before, a funeral.
This week she was sick.

These days, she only washes
by appointment, Friday afternoons,
regularly, at the salon in the
derelict neighborhood
where she grew up.
Her preferred stylist
long buried.

I thought about offering
to wash it myself.
I thought about why
the thought horrified me.
Intimate. Vulnerable.
Demeaning.

I thought of all the times
I've washed the hair of lovers.
Not one complained I didn't
do it right. I thought of monkeys
picking fleas and ticks
off the hair of family.
They call it bonding.

I thought about my childhood,
fingernails scraping,
shampoo burning my eyes,
and then the tight-fingered comb
tearing through tangled hair.
I thought of her hands
doing it...

I never liked it.