Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

My head is full of powers

Recently I cut eight inches of my hair and counted six grays.

My mother’s hair once was the color of dark copper.

Someone said, you should have donated your hair.

My parents’ dog once had hair the color of raven, but she’s full of grays now.

I think each gray hair I grow has special powers.

Once a month my mother dyes her hair with henna the color of burnt chestnut.

My parents’ dog is full of special powers.

My mother used to have short hair, but recently it’s grown long.

In pictures with her father, taken before I was born, the waves on their heads glint redly.

There is a reason we associate red with anger.

My parents’ dog can hear things no one else can, not even her brother.

My mother talks about some things she has heard, and not about others.

The reason is that anger is hot enough to burn you up.

My fourth decade as a human, as far as I know, has already begun.

Gray seems a witchy color.

I can’t tell you how old my mother is, or she will hear me and grow angry.

Witchy as thundercloud, as pebble, as sea-foam, as amniotic fluid.

My parents’ dog senses what gathers in the woods beyond her ears.

My hair gathered in the trash can while my head lightened.

My mother has been able to teach me certain things without saying them.

That is, no one else can hear some things she has said.

Hot as lava, as chili pepper, as solar flare, as strawberry poison dart frog.

I should have donated my special powers.

It’s never too late to reveal certain things, even after many dog-years or ghost-years.

Someone said, do you try to write political poems

The answer is that I write redly.

My parents’ dog and my mother bark only when necessary.

I hear them deepening, full of gray.

Everything on my head is in my head.

I learned it from my mother.

A witch is someone who turns anger into light.

Irène P. Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher at the University of Virginia. Her most recent book is Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), which was selected as Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Prize and runner-up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. She is also the author of orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), which won the Bob Kaufman Book Prize, and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Irène is a recipient of Fulbright, Callaloo, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowships, and is on the editorial staff of Muzzle Magazine and the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section.