Whatever you do, don't include hairpins,
an ancient Chinese poet, loosely translated,
advised. Moons will do, or a lone frog in a pond,
but hairpins introduce the mundane
in its least appealing aspect, worse than
a woman who's let herself go or neglected to do
her hair, just tossed the pins and combs
and lacquers aside like a bead curtain
no longer needed to hide the rest
of the room or lure someone into it.

Today, cleaning the downstairs bathroom,
something else the wise would no doubt
leave out of poetry, I spilled an old
cold cream jar filled with hairpins
I hadn't known were there, and I saw
her stride out, her hair streaming
behind her like a Fury's, her mouth composed
against you, so magnificent with wrath
you felt you were watching Blake
etch one of his terrible angels.

The truth excites less: she left without fury,
she left behind things other than hairpins
that you've kept undisturbed: perfume, a scarf,
some books. I'd prefer the fury,
leaving as it does less room for love
to continue. But giving hairpins such weight
denies them their rightful place
in poetry, where they should be allowed
to lie hidden in jars, to lie scattered
on floors, to lay claim to the heart.


Poems by Lynne Knight:

Her Story
The Story
Not Even They Could Stop It, and They Were Myth
Boundless Kingdom
Bedtime Story
Lost Sestina
Meditation Interrupted by Bats
Bed and Bone
O, Penelope!
None of Us at Prayer

Dissolving Borders

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets