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BooksNovember 17, 2017

The Friday Poem: ‘The man who wanted to stroke my hair’ by Elizabeth Smither


New verse by New Plymouth writer Elizabeth Smither.


The man who wanted to stroke my hair


The St Kilda tram. Bright summer air. Breeze

through the window gap, stirring

all manner of motes, tendrils of hair

lifting their traces on my neck. Fine hairs

of a different sort, underneath. Antennae

not needed for action on a tram.


A hand touches my shoulder, gently.

A confidant’s hand, a psychiatrist

or alternative therapist: The Role of Hair

just accepted as a learnèd paper. ‘May I

stroke your hair?’ the whisper in my ear.


NO, came the answer before I considered it

then odd thoughts, like running nits (not

that I had those, even at school). Then

How many times? and ‘Where would you begin?’

Obviously from the crown; the hand would settle

and then begin its slide. My hair was thick, golden

(my aunts all had it, with a natural wave

as it descended, almost a Marcel, no

salon needed). The tram stopped. I looked

ahead. The man got off, the breeze

caressed crown and neck all the way home.


Elizabeth Smither, 2017





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