Chairs, from Magpie Tales
My grandmother had long chestnut-colored hair, or so I've been told, and her photosgraphs in her youth show a woman with thick hair piled atop her head. In her later years, she dyed her hair red. She had married a man much older than she, and after his death she married again. She did not have the luxury of musical chairs during those difficult years of the Great Depression. I wonder if she ever looked back at the ones she might have chosen.
Because she died shorn
of her crimped, hennaed glory
called shameless for
someone her age, I hate short hair
that clings to the skull
and risks nothing. Her fiery
profusion I like to imagine as flaring
out into the sickroom to shock,
to accuse: all she might have become
had she not said “I do” and sat down
in that chair when he pulled it out,
scraping the floor,
making idle talk stop for an instant.
the old women frown when
she whispered I must have this,
canna lily she plucked from the vase
on the table to pin at the nape
of her barely contained bun,
what she called a chignon.
The other chairs she might have
chosen, did she reminisce as she
wandered away from them into
the mirrors of middle-age? Goaded
by what she saw, she dyed her gray back
to flaming rebellion they cut off
the last day she lived, for the sake
of what family called Visitation--
the coffin lid opened, no time for
embarrassment. People might gossip
about her lack of repentance, the devil’s
own red coming loose from the pins.
So she lay without any complaint,
as I too have sat cowed in the stylist’s chair
watching my dishwater blonde hair
descending around me like chaff.