He must have been eleven or twelve,
all shoulders and collarbone,
torso fleshless and stretched –
One morning, he had lifted an arm,
casually, and found a thicket of hair
which had sprung up overnight.
He had caught glimpses for a while…
in the convex mirrors of corner shops,
in the restless surveillance footage
broadcast on buses,
his scalp, pink, emerging through his hair,
his hair, regressing to the fine softness of a baby’s.
He goes through the stages they all do:
Wear it long (avoid the barber),
Spike it up (at the front),
Wear a hat.
Then, when the mirror offers irrefutable proof,
when the top of his head looks like
the lawn of a rented house in late summer
– patchy and unconvincing –
he shaves it,
leaving him only longing dreams of hair.
Your pink little hands
Delight in the sensory offerings of each page of your favourite book-
The owl’s rough claws, feathery wings, soft stomach.
They have been trained diligently to turn the pages
But are impatient, possessed by the promise
of the same pages and pictures, textures and words.
So hurriedly you turn each page
Or all of them at once,
To get from the beginning back to the beginning.
Your little nerves fire haywire
Like those of a heavy smoker who lights a second cigarette
When the first still ashes.
When we hide the book your hands delight in
Two bobbins, one large, one small
You roll them and one fits inside the other.
Your hands are now so watched, so protected
That little harm can come to them.
But beware of the mundane enemies ahead!
The hot cough of oil from an unwatched pan,
The catastrophe of broken glass,
Seditious wasps and mosquitoes- will their bites swell up in angry hillocks?
There are a thousand other textures that your palms and fingers will
Collide into/tap/ crumble /stroke
Sharp grains of rice/ The surprise of a snake’s smooth skin
And a thousand more, unknown to you
While old hands grow calloused.