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Pulling My Hair Out: Poem in Draft

Sri Lanka, Photo by the Author

Pulling My Hair Out

I am pulling my hair out

Though I have quite a lot and the strands come apart so crisply and clearly,

Then clumps,

Small hair balls I’m coughing them up so many times a day.

I worry the follicles cannot produce hair fast enough to replace the discarded keratin units.

My hairline is receding, too,

As is my patience, equanimity, my previous unfathomable confidence in this collective experience called human existence.

Life, it seems, is not mostly good, or on balance a positive.

Once the paper printed 100,000 dead names it seemed an awakening would arrive.

Now nearing 700,000 – what is the way?

The path continues to your left, just follow the arrow and listen for the directions from the electronic voice,

A metaphor in herself, a simulated human giving directions that you will follow,

Because you don’t know anymore,

There are no Thomas Brothers spiral-bound map books in the back seat soaking up Coke in a puddle on the floor mat.

Yet seven-hundred-thousand or nine-hundred-thousand or one million or more:

this is not novel, losses higher than this have piled up on pyres and in ovens before. So why this questioning, this suffering?

Because our generation, she said over the phone, this is the hardest thing we have ever experienced.

What, are we wusses then?

We are, and have gone soft, especially here,


Have we gone hard as more than 30 kindergartners died and nothing was done. More than 80 at a concert. Dozens in high schools. We kill students, teachers, FedEx workers, joggers, an emergency medical technician in her apartment, a man with family exiting a convenience store, we kill grocery shoppers, movie goers, military and synagogue and church goers, and yet nothing changes.

We like triggers and that freedom to buy weapons too much.  That’s protection, individual rights, that’s American.

Just ask the Minutemen, Paul Revere, or a man in Charlotte or the conspiracy mobs at the Capitol in January.

Life is oily darkness and gravity-sucking passage of time, pulling matter to the center, forming titanium-hardened resolve and it is not mostly good or mostly bad, brief unhappiness spiked with joy like a punch.

It is all a leaded plumb line lowered into a void, a gaping maw.

We the people whose brief interlude here adds to the chemicals and contributes to the dust.

A floating backlit mote – all of this then.

Hand me the eyeglass cleaner so I can see better.

There, do you bring it into focus and assign it a value, do you pass a judgment?

Or do you sit in front of the television, running your fingers through your tangled strands, over and over, removing the long brown dead growth, wondering –

When will it end – what is the conclusion to this pandemic, but really, of the whole thing – our upright two-legged species of hominid, is it going to persist, or is the final sentence written in the lifeless cells in a fistful of broken, split-ended, not-so-silken growth?

Remember the Buddha statue we saw atop that Sri Lanka hill?

A balmy afternoon in a jungle where war and car bombs still blossomed, yet our knowledge saved us:

“You know Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’re from California?” the boy with the AK-47 asked. He let us pass because of that thin thread, that connection.

In this moment we laugh, in the next 50 years, we will mourn and shake our heads and sob.

Meanwhile, I will pull my hair out. There’s still some time left.

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