for Ladd


“I Guess it Must Be
          the Flag of my Disposition”

I cannot explain
to a fourteen-year-old
child becoming man, dear to me,
why I wear my hair so long.

I cannot tell him
as I tell my older friends,
your hair is this long, too, why
do you keep it coiled in your head?

He thinks I must have
grown it out in my righteous years
of rebellion, and somehow
forgotten to outgrow it.

I could tell him how I
fought the clippers in my mother’s hand
with tears and wriggling, years
before I turned fourteen—

But I am almost thirty.
I can only tell him how I
love the luxury of it, the tumble
of a living wind around my shoulders.

I cannot tell him
as I tell my reasonable elders,
this is the banner of who I am,
a testimony truer than the name you gave me!

He can’t see in my eyes
how I love to watch the grasses of Kansas
escaping their fences under the wind.
He has lived too long in Kansas.

I could tell him
that cutting it would cut my breath,
as cruel and as ineffectual
as year after year to cut the grass of Kansas.

But I may cut it someday.
I can only tell him that it grows
not from the scalp but from some deep
stratum of the living soil.

Its length is evidence of my living!

The clippers would only make it
spring out faster, I would have to cut it
again and again—

It will be the last of me to cease.

“And Now it Seems to Me the
          Beautiful Uncut Hair of Graves”