'My Father's Hair' is based on Christopher Smart's poem 'For My Cat Jeoffrey'
My Father’s Hair
For it has stood up like a coxcomb before a fight.
For it is whiter than lace on a bobbin or snow on a bough.
For in his youth it was auburn, leading to blackness.
For it has a grave insouciance,
What they call in Sassoon’s “a natural air”.
For it has resisted gels and lotions,
For it has been photographed, ridiculed,
Admired, swept back.
For it speaks the language of wild things, everywhere.
For it has suffered the barbary of barbers, and my mother.
For it has been tamed with deerstalkers,
Baseball and camouflage caps.
For it is something of a pirate or an admiral.
It is a spark transmitter and a Special Constable,
It is Harrier, Jumpjet, parachute, Chinook.
For it is salt on an eyelash, fresh from the sea.
For it is loved by many women of the district,
And is piped aboard the sternest of vessels.
For it cannot be mentioned, the pot of Vitalis
She gave him on their honeymoon.
For its mind is as fast as light, the elastic stretch
Of a falling star. It is not anybody’s servant.
For we will say nothing of Delilah and Seville.
It is both gravel path and skating rink.
It is velvet, it is epaulettes. It is sunrise, it is sunset.
O my father’s hair! It is an unsung hero!
But because of the sickness, or the cure for the sickness,
It lies like an angel’s on the pillow:
Long white strands, like wings, or long white wings, like hair.
from Signs Round a Dead Body (Seren, 1998), © Deryn Rees-Jones 1998, used by permission of the author and the publisher.