by Alexa White
Twelve months, countless little gray hairs
pulled from some cave of my scalp.
I’ve studied each one, twirling it white
against a background out of focus.
How do I hold them? Three fingers pinched?
I’m twenty-two years old.
I keep count but I don’t feel old
when I wake in search through my pillow for hair,
for silver reminders of my prime. I pinch
them into a box and hope my scalp
won’t remember that color while I focus
on the reckless curl of each white
strand, measure their length, sprinkle white
dandruff across the floor along with old
corpses of pigmented threads. I shed focus
into the shower drain with loose hair;
how many pallid weeks escape my scalp
which go unseen? Just a pinch
compared to the ones I’ve pinched
or brushed from the back of my head with white
knuckles, I sift through seasons of my scalp
in sinks or clinging to shirt fibers. I’m old
enough to know how fast my own hair
grows but I’m not able to focus
I must keep telling myself to focus
on living. My eyes should shine, I keep pinching
my bloodless cheeks to see a hair
of color beside my purple under-eyes, white
teeth I won’t keep into old
age, the coily black transition to my scalp.
Time will scalp what’s left, after I’m numb from cheek pinch
pains endured to keep from focusing on the white
of old dust and adulteration. Until then, I’ll keep counting hairs.
Artwork: "That Night in the Bathroom" by Grant Barbour