sees the old woman — wheelchair bound, pushed by her daughter — glance
                   out the window, and goes in back
to fetch a shower cap. The woman tugs her daughter’s shirt and says, almost
                   inaudibly, It’s raining.

And it is raining. Barely. But clearly it wouldn’t take much rain to collapse
                   the woman’s hair back
to what it must have looked like when she came in here — that is, not so much
                   hair as the gray wisps

hair turns into if you live long enough. Without a word, the hairdresser
                   begins fitting the shower cap
atop the woman’s head, going around the edge with her pointer finger,
                   one by one tucking in curls

like a pastry chef piping rose after rose around the bottom of a cake, the frosting
                   flowers almost magical, blooming
in pink blush. When the hairdresser steps away, the woman’s hand lifts
                   to feel the cap there,

and her daughter asks too loudly, You’re all right now, Ma? And I wonder,
                   should I feel hope
that there exists, anywhere in the world, compassion for an old woman’s curls,
                   that she’ll arrive back

at the facility, perm intact, that some aide may carefully remove the cap,
                   letting her have a day or two
of however hair returns her to herself? Or is it something else I should feel —

that life unravels into such bathetic necessity, sprayed, teased, and blow-dried
                   to prop up an animal
surely near its final days? And then I recall, from the seat where I await
                   my haircut, that my own mother

had her grayed, chemo-thinned hair cut two weeks before the cancer
                   took her, and that, when we said
how good she looked, she smiled sardonically but seemed to sit a little higher
                   against the pillows

she was propped on. Though she couldn’t lift herself, not even to eat,
                   she seemed to rise.