Washing Deborah’s Hair | Jacqueline Wilson-Jordan

The clotted strands curve,
Bend like furrows of fallen wheat–
Stand
Even from the root
As I lift up Deborah’s hair to tell the story of what I see.

Deborah’s jeep flipped over last week in an ice storm on Highway 88.
She is “lucky to be alive.”
I am here to wash her hair.
I know Deborah from graduate school–
We’ve talked about feminist theory, our mothers, and Edith Wharton.
We’ve shared salad sandwiches.
I know she’s from California, that she colors her hair red.

Today her hair is no color or shape.

She sits on a stool in the bathtub, wearing a striped bikini.
I take off my shoes and socks and crawl in with her.
She is pale, haunted,
Her eyes are dark, her ear a black row of jagged stitches.

A wounded head is a prairie after the burn,
Fallen wheat over black–
Dirt, grit, pavement and dried blood.

When she asks to tell what I see, I pause.
Then hear my halting voice begin
To chart this land,
To measure this
Pain, this Damage.

There’s
a little bit of hair
falling out—
not much though–here I see
a black cut–
it doesn’t look too deep–
This
side is clear
I’m–
about
to
pour
water–
here’s
where
I
am
pouring
gentlygently
AmIhurtingyou? Am I hurting you?
I tell and tell and tell.
When Deborah tips her head back,
I watch with no words as the water falls, bends the furrows, and turns to rust.

————
A native of Southeast Iowa, Jacqueline Wilson-Jordan teaches and coordinates Basic Writing at Western Illinois University. Her publications on the American short story have appeared in The Edith Wharton Review; Eureka Studies in the Teaching of Short Fiction; Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors: Edith Wharton and Material Culture, and Short Story Criticism; her creative non-fiction has appeared in Gravel: A Literary Journal, The Blue Bear Review and The Mulberry Fork Review. In her spare time, Jacqueline enjoy spending time with her family and playing and singing folk music.

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