Stephanie Antonian Rutherford, Portage • Honorable Mention, Poetry>


A pile of black strands on the bamboo floor.

My abandoned hair, from a night of unconscious twisting, braiding and

rebraiding, offers itself as evidence of my maniac vanity.

My hair has a memory. A weight. It began with fingered curls, my fussy face, reddening under    my grandmother’s attention. A flash-bulb bouncing off the combed-in shine.

Twenty years ago I sat between my mothers knees,

biting tears while she yanked at the snarls with the lime green comb.

The lime comb, its heavy plastic teeth half gone, knocked out

from battling the thick wet bundle of my hair at age five.

My hair was stubborn, indignant — it was my mother’s hair, my grandmother’s hair.

The hair of my great-grandmother. Hair born in Armenia and coiled tight around

memories. Hair that stayed strong through desert marches and starvation.

This hair that traveled undercover in a babushka to Canada, to Detroit.

This factory hair, never weakening under exhaust, always washing

clean from the city fumes. The hair that refused to be tame.

This hair that came too early. Born too soon, my liver was not ready but

my hair had bloomed. A thick and shocking mess on a tiny infant head, it

soaked up the incubator sun and started its rich blossom. Blueprints were

formed for curls, its memory began to live.

In April, I combed delicately at my grandmother’s scalp.

Her hair at 98 years, thinned and pale as her body, still stubborn.

It will not lay flat to die, it stands up proudly in tufts, still hoping.

After she is gone, after she has been tucked back into the ground by the Rouge,

I squeeze at my hair for comfort. The thick silk life that carries on.

I look in the mirror and began to pull at the waves, fold them safely

into a braid. I pull hard, wanting to make it tight, weaving its stories together.

Pull it in tight to keep safe all my memories.

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