September Thirteenth
by Loretta Diane Walker



The mastectomy is penciled in like charcoal on glass
for September thirteenth. Fate changes shoes, goads my destiny
with its sharp stick; I take a detour. Instead of dressing incisions
made by the surgeon’s knife, I am listening
to the buzz and whir, feeling the teeth of the hairdresser’s clippers
mowing through my thick black hair.
I counted the first two gray strains that webbed my temples;
then I stopped. Hair, like stars and sand, clouds and grass
was not created for the count, rather for the dalliance of the wind.
Flickers of tears mingle with water and shampoo
as the beautician massages my head. Her fingers move
over the scroll of my scalp as though she is reading Braille.
The two friends who accompany me tell my how elegant
and in vogue I look with short hair. But at that moment,
their words are not strong enough to dam the tears.

September Fourteenth
I go to school with my head covered
by a blue scarf lined with a canopy of white stars,
knotted and tied with shame.
Students question me with their eyes. No answer.

September Fifteenth
I find the strength to wear my shaved head to a restaurant.
Javen dressed in his eleven-year-old coat of courage
comes to tell me, Miss Walker you shouldn’t cover your head.
You look beautiful.
He will sing a solo in the Christmas pageant.
Not because he says I am beautiful,
but because his voice is beautiful.

Now
I wear red lipstick and crimson polish
to cover my chemo shadowed nails.
My bald head longs for the chopped black locks.
I only have a handful stashed in a bronze box
growing into memories.





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