When my mother becomes ill the hairdresser
she has known for the past 30 years—
the only one who can fix my hair the way I like—
comes to her apartment. He is always drunk
and calls her by a different name—
their own inside joke. She would laugh
but by the end she didn’t respond,
assuming that she may well be Mrs. Kaufman
or one of the other names he called out.
When he washed her hair I could see
she was all forehead, the few strands he teased
over the front giving her a face.
Just before she died, my mother’s eyes
could only reach the bottom of the mirror
but she would still try to hand him the rollers
and stare while he placed the thin strands around each one
as though he alone could tether her to this earth.