Beauty Supplied Somewhere Near Ritchie County, West Virginia
In ads for medical wigs the hair looks real,
the faces look like faces of mannequins.
Is that meant to keep all sense of possibility generic,
or is each look of frozen almost-tenderness
a sign there will be yet another life
where, just at first, one’s gestures may be hesitant
to be walking around in a body again?
Full-cap, capless, lace-front, toppers, clip-in wigs,
jaw-length layers, skin-part (never fear your part again).
Hair Barn, Wigs on Wheels, Beauty Plus,
directions someone gives you over the phone
will feel like prayers of intercession overheard.
Turn left and cross a gravelled-over bridge. There’s no sign there.
In Pullman, there’s a pay phone, should you need it.
You offered up your possible many selves
to rows of wigs with women’s names
I can’t remember so I’ll have to make them up,
the Julie, the Debbi, the Janet, the Kimberlee—
the best I ever do even in memory
is crack a joke. I can’t remember how.
What is beauty on a two-lane road
with curves that everyone who lives here
takes too fast? You came back home to live here,
not to die! It was you who wrote me the directions:
watch for turtles in the road. I saw a fox once
but that was late at night. I don’t remember finding Riddle Hill,
I do recall the upslope fog in which it sometimes hid—
that owl late at night that measured distance tree to tree.
When a crow caws six or seven times and then stops
it is listening for other crows. That is almost an adage
minus a more general truth, though friendship wants to have
something to do with it. Here I am, where are you.
No, that’s a song the red-eyed vireo sings all day
or how some of us hear it anyway, and the tufted titmouse
singing here here here so sweetly hopeful
though it hasn’t been asked. Whatever we may think we hear,
sometimes birds are really telling each other
they’re near, and just how near. A friend once called
“near” itself a friend, it came so close
there was nothing left to be said. Maybe it felt like the sweet invisibility
in the trees once birds have fallen asleep by night
or each to each they know and need not say how far apart they are.
Dream of A Pencil
begins as wood and mineral
and ends in the aether—
a sky of cirrocumulous
like ripples on a lake.
as of a watermark.
—I just remembered the other story
in which you were a mother and an artist.
“Among her papers,” now
it must be said—
a baby lion gently sprawled
on tracing paper,
thinnest you could find,
not in the least afraid,
made of haste
so long ago—
these penciled almost-brushstrokes—
vagaries, who knows how loved
or needed to be,
that other life—