Grown thick and silky, washed in the sun
those heart-stopping tresses.
It was their crowning glory
the gay Irish lassies.
Besides, what else could they offer?
Not that. Too Catholic and demure.
Besides, in those days
they were seldom out alone.
And we had black maids,
so didn't need their deer shyness
‘round the kitchen
or clumsy brogue in the parlour.
I'd pull a clump of it to feel her wince
pretend to be testing the strength of it.
I'd tug hard enough to make her gasp.
Then quietening her the way you would
a trembling mare readying the saddle
Now, now this won't hurt a bit
I'd massage the delicate scalp, stroking.
Gently, quickly then I'd work my shears
cutting those generous tresses skillfully
the air around me filling with August sweetness
clean-smelling and delicate
a bouquet of fresh mown hay and honeysuckle.
She'd look like a boy when I was done.
Still pretty if she had good bones to start
but naked, used
like a sheep sheared, struggling in the pen
behind a neighbor's barn on an April morning.
What would they offer her then, I wonder,
The uncles, the mother?
What gift half so dear?
I had many an Irish lass in here:
fondled them, touched them
in secret ways their young husbands
would never know. The first time, too.
It wasn't just the money, you see.
I'll wager they haven't forgotten me.
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