"Love binds me to the one whose hair I've found in my mouth, whose sleeping head I kiss, wondering, is it death?" --Li-Young Lee (from "Dreaming of Hair")
Tonight, the first strands have begun to fall, signaling my worst fear.
The shame I felt when I heard about the relapse - shame, because my first thought was, what about your beautiful hair? The hair that took far too long to grow back, the first time around? As though there weren't other, more grave things to worry about?
The caustic liquid begins its final drip drip drip of the day - slashing and snipping what ails your body, but taking your golden locks as ransom.
The first time, when you were a baby, the baldness didn't frighten anyone, didn't put people off guard the way a hairless five year-old surely will.
And that is the shame of it - the fact that you must walk into a classroom of artless children, with gaping mouths and full heads of hair.
But your hair - the color of honey fresh from the comb; I gather the loose strands in my trembling fingers, and remember -
Hair grows after death.
A writer from Massachusetts, Leila holds a BA in Comparative Lit from Smith College and a MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Abbey, 95Notes, poetryfish, and Advocate, and the anthology 24/7: A Caregiving Anthology. She currently lives and teaches in Maryland. Her inspiration for this poem was her nephew Ian, who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at age two and for whom she was a primary caregiver. "By the grace of God," Leila says, "thankfully Ian is now nine and cancer free."