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Myrna’s Hair

There was almost no light on the road when I went out to meet Myrna. The trees had taken it all with their over-lush shades of green. I wandered down to the water to find my outlandish cousin spread out on the dock like a flattened walrus. Her massive arms and legs seemed to cover the entire wooden expanse and her large puff of hair teethed on the boards as if trying to eat them. I knew I would have to tell her that Thomas was back, but she looked so peaceful that I waited. When Thomas crawled out of the water and started shaking the dock, I realized that I had waited too long.

The night before had been quiet, causing my sleeplessness to echo against a frenzy of night thoughts. After awhile, I stopped trying to distinguish them and just listened to the din. I was thinking about Thomas, my troubled brother who I hadn’t seen in years. We were very close before he was sent away. No one knew exactly what snapped in him. His personality slowly began to change, and then one day while we were swimming, it was as if the person mother and I knew had drained out of him. It seemed like he had come to link his mysterious anguish with the water, the color of my eyes, my hands on his, comforting him. As we floated in the lake, he looked me deep in the eyes and said, “Mona, you know I’m gonna drown you someday.” I swam furiously for shore and the next day mother sent him to a place where he could “rest.” Thomas and I may have been young, but we knew the word asylum.

The sound of Thomas ripping into the bubble of Myrna’s hair was sickening. I was trying to separate them when he suddenly dove back into the water. We sat holding each other as we watched Thomas paddle the water around the dock ominously. I suspected that he had been looking for an answer to the hot blur of his thoughts since the swimming day and was content to look for answers in the water a little longer.

“Do you think he’s ever gonna leave?” were Myrna’s first words since the hair pulling incident. She had been lying in my lap, letting me stroke her wounded mop as he continued to circle the dock. We were too scared to move.

“Not until we tell him something important,” I responded. 

“I don’t know anything important,” Myrna said. I turned my head, and for the first time in 20 years, made eye contact with my little brother. His face was a man’s now, but I could still see that little freckled boy looking at me with so much love. Childhood nights running through fields and falling in grass rushed through me. I remembered his voice and wanted so badly to hear it again.  

“Myrna still curls her hair with socks, ” I screamed to him across the water. It was the only thing I could think of to connect the lines of all our lives again. As soon as I said it, I knew I had ruined everything with my nervous words. Then Thomas surprised us all by smiling.  Myrna and I smiled back in relief, but he was already climbing back onto the dock, charging at me.


Caroline Hagood is a poet and professor of literature and creative writing in New York City. She has written on arts and culture for The Guardian, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Her poetry has appeared in Shooting the Rat (Hanging Loose Press), Movin’ (Orchard Books), Angelic Dynamo, RootSpeak, Ginosko, Quail Bell, and Manhattan Chronicles.


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