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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberto Ríos
Alberto Ríos
Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the author of several collections of poetry and was the recipient of the 1981 Walt Whitman Award...
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FURTHER READING
Poems about Hair
Evasive Action
by Charlie Smith
Good Hair
by Sherman Alexie
Hair
by Orlando Ricardo Menes
Haircut
by Elizabeth Alexander
Sally's Hair
by John Koethe
Spring and All, XIV
by William Carlos Williams
The Forest of My Hair
by James Tolan
The Healing Improvisation of Hair
by Jay Wright
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Refugio's Hair

 
by Alberto Ríos

In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera--The Land of the Lime--
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carlos lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed 
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrín
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse's rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the álamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother 
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep.






From The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body by Alberto Ríos. Copyright © 2002 by Alberto Ríos. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.
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