Hair Painting

The cuticle of the hair must be opened so that dye can reach the cortex. Open-heart surgery used to require breaking the whole chest apart. All spiritual traditions say you have to lose your life to find it. My body is losing itself, my hair is losing its pigment. More than 75 percent of women and a lot of men color their hair, even though after only two weeks, gray will show at anyone’s roots. My hairdresser has a technique called “painting” that leaves streaks of gray, a more natural look. It is a delicate art form. I seem to be compelled to strip away the veil; it is my art to both expose and hide, never revealing how much of either. Gray hair’s texture is coarser, which is an advantage, since it needs to be uplifted to counteract the effect of gravity’s extended relationship with the jowls. You can’t really turn gray overnight. Your psychological state has a significant impact on the hormones that can affect the amount of melanin deposited in each strand of hair, but the effect of emotion takes a long time to see.



The beginning of my problem was when I got the idea I was above the earth. It was my head, thinking it ran things. But gravity is why I couldn’t altogether escape. Neither can the moon, trapped in the dimple earth makes in space. My body is sagging into a trough. How big our planet is, how fiercely it wants to win. How long can I hold it off? The stars, too, can barely maintain themselves. Gravity squishes hydrogen into helium—one hundred million years later, a star is born! Gravity keeps on trying to crush its child, and finally does. My bones will be dust. The fleshy part of my stomach will forget posture. My organs will turn off their intercoms. I would weigh 21.6 pounds on the moon. How good would I be in bed? I would have to learn floating. I love his weight on my bones. There are three blankets on our bed, all welcome. My problem is that I think I can wake up and throw them off, that I can be free of the part that goes on when I’m helplessly asleep.


Overview and Objectives of the Neck

The neck is a column or pipe with several smaller pipes inside it, so as to be able to make various kinds of music out of air. Its lift and curve has been likened (he has likened it) to a swan’s, a winning combination of elegance and vulnerability. But here’s the thing: the exterior column is covered with such fragile skin that it loses its grip on itself year by year. Its first sighs are called Venus rings, as if from too much loving. The strap muscles do what they can. You can strengthen the base, but the crumpling goes on. Who would have thought I’d end up so trivial? Do I think I am Mandelstam in his gulag, writing immortal and perfect poems about butterflies, poems that contribute to the Greater Social Good in ways understood by only a few? Or do I think I can flaunt the sadness of my neck like a scarf, theatrical, signaling to the audience some grand, private despair?


The Brain

His body has cooled down since I first used it for my furnace. In The Matrix, the heat and electrical activity of human bodies are used as fuel to create a simulated reality. Humans live their lives in dreams while machines run the world. The dream world is also called samsara. I have spent years imagining my life, while it was actually here, cooling and shining out of a pure sense of itself, beyond repair. My words have made not one dimple in its surface. The brain thought it had won, but its stories wore thin from use. It was giving the same explanations over and over: He did this, I did that, this is why, as a result. The one place delusion is still nice, though, is with my light brown eye shadow and faint brush of blush to suggest excitement and a dusky sexuality. But it’s too much to manage for long. In one theory, the biggest stars collapse into black holes until the laws of gravity fail. We can’t call it collapse after that. We could just as easily call it love, the only unmooring visible from here.


Fleda Brown’s eighth collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy, was published by BOA Editions, LTD in 2013. Her collection of essays, with Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives, also came out in 2013 from Autumn House Books. Her memoir is Driving With Dvorak, (University of Nebraska Press, 2010). Fleda’s work has appeared in Best American Poetry, has won a Pushcart Prize, the Felix Pollak Prize, the Philip Levine Prize, and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writer’s Award. Her poems have been used as texts for several prizewinning musical compositions performed at Eastman School of Music, Yale University, and by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. She has won the New Letters and the Ohio State Univ/ The Journal awards for creative nonfiction. She is professor emerita at the University of Delaware, where she taught for 27 years and directed the Poets in the Schools program. She was poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-07. She and her husband now live in Traverse City, Michigan.

Photography by Laura Frantz