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Hair, Deer, Birds

Posted Jan 02 2012 1:08pm

She has lost her hair again, as she knew she would, having - not without real deliberation this time - agreed to another series of taxol, one of the chemotherapies that inevitably leads to baldness. So we brought the clippers with us when we visited last week, and one mild day when everyone else was out, my mother and I stepped out onto the back porch and I shaved the last wisps at her request. They danced in the breeze like milkweed fluff and stuck to my coat. My mother had asked me, before we went out, if I wanted to put on a different coat, to borrow a raincoat perhaps. I had not. I'd wanted to know I might be plucking stray hairs of hers from my own coat for weeks. She has a lovely head, its shape and proportion appealing and right. But then everything about her body has always struck me as right - even more than beautiful - or rather, as the basis of her beauty: this essential rightness, so that in my aesthetic lexicon, brown eyes are 'right,' and soft hands, and trimmed, unpainted oval fingernails, and the set of her mouth and the set of her shoulders and the darkness and straightness and heaviness of her hair, which, admittedly, whisperedly, remains for me at memory's core a rich, shining sable, short and thick, with a narrow sliver of almost silvery white marking the part.

Behind my parent's house is a small creek, and beyond this is a wooded incline, and half-hidden, half-nestled at the base of one of the trees across the creek a deer lay dead. My father had spotted it several days earlier, and I'd seen it closer-up when I'd gone with the dog through the modest swath of woods the day before, and on the day I shaved my mother's head, we began to see the vultures mass, three and four and seven and nine of them, coming to perch on branches in various nearby trees. They were very patient, those waiting in the trees, still and heavy as stone carvings, mutely watching as though keeping vigil or sitting shiva. But of course they had a different purpose, and in the days to come, we - various members of my family - would periodically gather by the big windows, keeping watch on their watch, and we - congregating with peaceable interest, much like the family of birds - noticed how one at a time would dine on the deer, standing literally on the deer's body as it unhurriedly and deftly pried up pieces of meat. The whole thing took place at near stately pace: the birds' almost languid return day after day to the spot, the humans' observation through the wall of glass across the creek; the passage of the deer's body, the metamorphosing of it from one thing into many.
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