Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Healing Improvisation of Hair

If you undo your do you wóuld 
be strange. Hair has been on my mind. 
I used to lean in the doorway 
and watch my stony woman wind 
the copper through the black, and play 
with my understanding, show me she cóuld 
take a cup of river water, 
and watch it shimmy, watch it change, 
turn around and become ash bone. 
Wind in the cottonwoods wakes me 
to a day so thin its breastbone 
shows, so paid out it shakes me free 
of its blue dust. I will arrange 
that river water, bottom juice. 
I conjure my head in the stream 
and ride with the silk feel of it 
as my woman bathes me, and shaves 
away the scorn, sponges the grit 
of solitude from my skin, laves 
the salt water of self-esteem 
over my feathering body. 
How like joy to come upon me 
in remembering a head of hair 
and the way water would caress 
it, and stress beauty in the flair 
and cut of the only witness 
to my dance under sorrow's tree. 
This swift darkness is spring's first hour. 

I carried my life, like a stone, 
in a ragged pocket, but I 
had a true weaving song, a sly 
way with rhythm, a healing tone.


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From Transfigurations: Collected Poems by Jay Wright. Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.


Jay Wright

Born in 1934, Jay Wright is the author of numerous collections of poetry and he was the recipient of the 1996 Academy of American Poets Fellowship

Date Published: 2000-01-01

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