New verse by New Plymouth writer Elizabeth Smither.
The man who wanted to stroke my hair
The St Kilda tram. Bright summer air. Breeze
through the window gap, stirring
all manner of motes, tendrils of hair
lifting their traces on my neck. Fine hairs
of a different sort, underneath. Antennae
not needed for action on a tram.
A hand touches my shoulder, gently.
A confidant’s hand, a psychiatrist
or alternative therapist: The Role of Hair
just accepted as a learnèd paper. ‘May I
stroke your hair?’ the whisper in my ear.
NO, came the answer before I considered it
then odd thoughts, like running nits (not
that I had those, even at school). Then
How many times? and ‘Where would you begin?’
Obviously from the crown; the hand would settle
and then begin its slide. My hair was thick, golden
(my aunts all had it, with a natural wave
as it descended, almost a Marcel, no
salon needed). The tram stopped. I looked
ahead. The man got off, the breeze
caressed crown and neck all the way home.
Elizabeth Smither, 2017