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Cynthia Atkins: Hairbrush

Once upon a strand of time, my son was a shade
of bandwidth inside me. Far away as a constellation—
butterfly, unmistakably, a living being.

For years, he was embarrassed to let anyone know
he had a mother. He’d blush at the clothes store,
buying those little boy pajamas of trains and planes—

I washed them so many times until they were balls of lint.
Now, at 19 years old, he is brushing my hair. Tonight, my man-boy
fumbles to put up my hair. I have no daughter, only a son,

and I stumbled down a rabbit-hole and broke my arm.
He’s held baseball bats, soccer balls, pencils, twine, knives,
but never a hairbrush. Bristles pulling like an autumn rake,

jagged at first, but then smooth with maturity. When his age,
I cut on my own vein until it bled. I needed to know
I could feel pain. I thought I felt all the pain allowed.

Found that there is nothing worse than the pain
of your child’s pain. He begins at the crown of my scalp,
parts the two sides like a tree branch at the V,

and I think of all the forks in the road, all the swinging bridges
we travailed, mariners, trains conductors, pirates. He’d fall
asleep on my chest, breath light as a falling leaf. Now, he glides

the bristles down my neck— He gently fluffs the tufts, as if airing
the pillows. We’d be tucked in in on a snowy night, a pretend carpet
would fly us away from illness and death, news of hate.

The tines swilling through my hair like love itself.


Copyright 2023 Cynthia Atkins

Cynthia Atkins' many books include Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020). She lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, Virginia, with artist Phillip Welch and their family.

14 comments on “Cynthia Atkins: Hairbrush

  1. Marla Snyder
    March 15, 2023

    Lovingly crafted and not too raw!
    Just the right amount of emotion to bring a tear!


  2. allisonfine
    March 15, 2023

    Love this.


  3. alexisrhonefancher
    March 15, 2023

    Exquisite poem!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rose Mary Boehm
    March 15, 2023

    Oh wow! Gentle and powerful. Beautifully crafted. Thank you. Now I read it again.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Barbara Huntington
    March 15, 2023

    And I remember how I did little things for my mom who wondered about the stranger who claimed to be her daughter and I think about the little things my grown children have begun to do for me

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lisa Zimmerman
    March 15, 2023

    Sigh. Such a beautiful poem, Cynthia ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Rosemerry
    March 15, 2023

    oh this–such a simple act, the brushing of the hair, so much history and hope and pain it evokes. powerful.

    Liked by 4 people

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2023 by in Health and Nutrition, Most Popular, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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