The Forest of My Hair
I'm 28 years old in the flesh but in a mirror all I can see is a boy after his first crew cut, five years old and wondering what happened to his hair, disbelieving it would ever grow back, as the barber and his grandfather promised, while he wept, silently, trembling air through his lips, pointing at his hair strewn across a tiled floor. My grandfather unwrapped sour balls for both of us, and, leaving his Falcon behind, walked with me to the woods. These woods, he said, are yours. They were mine, but I give them to you. I am old, and it is only right they should now belong to you. I have lived most of my life in the absence of that gentle voice, and those woods of mine were clear-cut years ago, but my hair, I wear it long in honor of him.
Originally from The Atlanta Review (Fall/Winter 1996). Copyright © 1996 by James Tolan. As found in What Have You Lost?, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye, published by Greenwillow, 1999. Reprinted by permission of the poet. All rights reserved.