For our son, a teacher of German, among the slain at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007
- He scooped it with deft, long-fingered hands and tamed it
with an elastic band, or let it hang loose on the flat bony cliff of his back.
His hair declared him his own bohemian, a middle-class free spirit
with a mortgage to pay down, a racing bike, a subscription to Netflix,
and a frau as deceptively frail as Hans Memling’s palest Madonna.
- Married, he cut it but twice and only to give away.
He then looked like a soldier or a monk—though neither calling
set his mind afire as did the table saw or the digital collage.
Long again, his hair gave him a faint resemblance to the rock star
he aped at a party—“Famous Dead People”—two months before
falling into his own celebrity, if only for fourteen minutes.
- Riding shotgun in a dry-ice mental fog, I carried his hair
back from the mortuary in a Ziploc freezer bag.
Later, we Googled the guidelines of the organization
to which we sent this salvaged relic of his immolated body.
- Sometimes I try to picture its recipient, thinking on her world—
a purple zinnia, a swim in the bell-shaped pool, a milkshake
after chemo—but I see only his shorn head at the crematory door,
serene as a bodhisattva, soon to kindle in a fire that will never consume
our love, a fire his hair escaped to adorn the skull of someone younger—
dying, but not yet dead.