In the old days of our family, My grandmother was a young woman Whose hair was as long as the river. She lived with her sisters on the ranch La Calera—The Land of the Lime— And her days were happy. But her uncle Carlos lived there too, Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife. One day, to teach her to ride a horse, He made her climb on the fastest one, Bareback, and sit there As he held its long face in his arms. And then he did the unspeakable deed For which he would always be remembered: He called for the handsome baby Pirrín And he placed the child in her arms. With that picture of a Madonna on horseback He slapped the shank of the horse's rear leg. The horse did what a horse must, Racing full toward the bright horizon. But first he ran under the álamo trees To rid his back of this unfair weight: This woman full of tears And this baby full of love. When they reached the trees and went under, Her hair, which had trailed her, Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse, That hair rose up and flew into the branches As if it were a thousand arms, All of them trying to save her. The horse ran off and left her, The baby still in her arms, The two of them hanging from her hair. The baby looked only at her And did not cry, so steady was her cradle. Her sisters came running to save them. But the hair would not let go. From its fear it held on and had to be cut, All of it, from her head. From that day on, my grandmother Wore her hair short like a scream, But it was long like a river in her sleep.
From The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body by Alberto Ríos. Copyright © 2002 by Alberto Ríos. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.
Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona and the author of many poetry collections, including A Small Story about the Sky (Copper Canyon Press, 2015). In 1981, he received the Walt Whitman Award for his collection Whispering to Fool the Wind (Sheep Meadow Press, 1982). He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2014 to 2020.
Date Published: 2002-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/refugios-hair