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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 6: January 2021
Ekphrastic Poem: 205 words
By Lauren Scharhag

Hair Work

—After Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence, MO *
 

It was the age of taxidermy and Madame Tussaud’s. 
Romantic love was still newfangled, 
like Proctor & Gamble’s marvelous soap. 
Freshly gathered tresses might have smelled of it, 
or else like macassar oil or egg yolk or lye. 

Bouquets of keratin we exchanged, 
boiled with baking soda, and dried, 
leaving us these sentimental materials 
in amber van Gogh hues: haystack and wheat field, 
boot leather, crow, sunflower heart. 
We wove them into brooches and watch fobs, 
bracelets and wreaths, applied wax and shellac 
to keep them from frizzing, but otherwise 
they needed no preservatives; 
objects of unknowable tensile strength, 
like spider silk, connecting the living with the living, 
and the living with the dead. 

This strange, proto-macramé craze, 
a little bit Miss Havisham, 
steeped in memory, genteelly moldering, 
a little bit Jack the Ripper, 
his particular brand of body horror. 

The shaft, you see, is already dead. 
The follicle is all that lives, and it’s been uprooted 
for the sake of these tokens, 
love and mourning always entwined, 
for whenever my love is absent, 
I am in mourning. But the hair endures. 
So long as we have these pieces of each other, 
so, too, do we endure. 

 

 

* Publisher’s Note:

As described by Wikipedia, Leila’s Hair Museum displays hair art, a form of art which flourished in the Victorian era as a way to keep mementos of loved ones before the invention of photography. Founded in 1986 by Leila Cohoon, this museum in Missouri houses hundreds of hair wreaths, and more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry that include locks of human hair. Most of these exhibits are more than a century old, and one brooch even dates back to 1680.

See also Mike Rowe’s visit with Leila (pronounced “lee-eye-la”), as she gives his film crew a tour of her unique collection (“the only one of its kind on the planet”), along with a few fascinating history lessons: Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Leila’s Hair Museum (8 October 2014).

Lauren Scharhag
Issue 6, January 2021

is the author of fourteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize, multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations, and acceptance into the 2021 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

Author’s website: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com

 
 
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