Gatherer of Tails

by Marilyn J. Baszczynski


I keep five first-haircut ponytails in a lacquered jewelry box
inside my vanity drawer:

my mother’s long brown one at age nineteen, mine blonde at six,
three from my children at ages five, three, two.

Beside the box lie four combed and plaited horse tails,
nested and nestled, arranged by date of death:

heavy white, thin gray, straight black, wavy brown-black,
each embellished with showy satin ties.

I pull them out today, stroke them like old secrets in a diary;
they are tales waiting to be elaborated and shared:

my mother shearing her long braid after the war and deportation,
to blend into a strange new western culture;

my second daughter arranged her own first-haircut by hacking
a chunk off the front, years later trying to cut her wrists;

Elmo liked to nuzzle my neck, gentle draft horse
who spent his last years grazing on our hills;

Neo, gray hunter-jumper, was my daughter’s best friend
through her worst times, until cancer took him spring of ‘09.

I find a pink ribbon to tie
his gray and her blonde locks together.

I wish I had clipped a silky white curl of Mom’s hair after she died
to tuck away here, although I have her hairbrush with strands in the bristles.

I gather, rather than hoard, the snuffles and chuffs,
sighs and hugs, tears and heartaches.

Tonight I’ll begin writing the stories.
For now I tuck them away and close the drawer.

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