White Feathers
by Ute Carson
Published in Silkworm 2007
Poet of Distinction Award, Florence Poets Society

As a child I believed that the bald eagle's head was bare
Until I saw it crowned with white feathers,
Symbols of pride and transformation.
Such contradiction!
Bald men are said to be virile into old age.
My eighty year-old grandfather,
His hairless scalp glistening with sweat beads of anticipation,
Overruled my grandmother's coy reluctance -
"I'm not really in the mood tonight."

Then my grandmother died
Still bearing an abundance of flowing white hair.
Observing my mother bathe and prepare her for burial,
I gasped. No pubic hair! Like a baby.
I hid my sadness at the sight.
Wanting to cover her nakedness,
I squeezed my eyes shut like clams
And fervently prayed, "A few white feathers... just a few?"

- ~ -