For Your Glory
In 1976 I rebelled. I cut my hair. Perfect timing,
I reasoned. My sisters and I were to travel to the
Southwest with you, and they would help me
lessen the blow, for you adhered fast to your
conviction that a woman’s tresses are her glory.
Anxious, I arose early to wash and style my hair,
now wild and uncooperative as if it were rebelling,
too. I brushed and sprayed and parted and teased.
Nothing worked. Shocks sprang from my head like
the Red Sea recoiling to its banks. In a tizzy, I
arrived at the airport just in time to board the
plane, rehearsing the defense I would deliver
you. But no speech. Not from me, not from you.
Just your acknowledgement of my sin. You had
such purty hair.
Years later you lie on the table, features set, hard
and cold in the warm, pulsating light. In silence,
your daughters prepare you for your return to Mother
Earth, the youngest brushing your long silk strands,
glossy-black and silver-streaked, for what seems
an eternity, stroking as if fearing she will forget the feel,
finally surrendering the hallowed moment to the other
who parts the hair and meticulously plaits one side
and then the other, at last fusing two braids swathed
at the nape of your neck. With moves as deliberate
and delicate as spun glass, she crimps a tiny finger-
wave at your forehead and secures it with simple
flat pins the way you had planted them a lifetime.
The honor is complete. Sunbeams swaddle you,
and glory shines all around.
Over the years I have heard fragments, how at fifteen,
the Beast conscripted your class into the air defense
of his lair, how you admired the Allies’ tight formation
over your capital city, their bravery in the hail
of shrapnel, how you collected metal, war’s trappings,
I heard how you and your comrades strayed
from your squadron, how, in fear-thick air,
your heart constricted when you eyed the enemy,
but how they bandaged your wounds, and at war’s end,
released you with directions home. I see you,
legs as swollen and heavy as water balloons,
holding fast to survival, arriving to discover a mother’s
self-immolation, sisters’ hard faces, and rubble.
I learned how guilt through the years had suffocated
you like an umbilical cord strangling a newborn, how
you wrestled with your complicity in nations’ atrocities,
and how at St. Michael’s, where the Beast’s Moonlight
Sonata had unleashed decades-deep destruction, **
you experienced your own blitz, emerging from the
cathedral’s ruins a new creation with a faith as strong
as war’s rhetoric, having acknowledged Man’s propensity
Sometimes I look at your time-ravaged frame and consider
how determined Memory is, directing mortar shells
and flares to disturb night’s rest, displaying tanks
and air power as day dawns, reeling the horror like
newly-discovered black and white film. But on this day
as light advances, you hear another Moonlight Sonata.
You jump and turn and dart and glide to the master’s
baton. You’re a child. Home once more. Quasi
*Soldier; Hitler’s youth
**Operation Moonlight Sonata: The name of the Nazi military operation which pounded Coventry,
England in November, 1940
Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it, her major themes focused on family, place, and faith. She says she feels compelled to write, to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, in Silver Birch Press and in Heart of Flesh Literary Journal.
Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com