HOT COMBSAt the junk shop, I find an old pair,black with grease, the teeth still pungentas burning hair. One is small,fine toothed as if for a child. Holding it,I think of my mother’s slender wrist,the curve of her neck as she leanedover the stove, her eyes shut as she pulledthe wooden handle and laid flat the wispsat her temples. The heat in our kitchenmade her glow that morning I watched herwincing, the hot comb singeing her brow,sweat glistening above her lips,her face made strangely beautifulas only suffering can do.
I just had to get home as soon as possible and find the poem online so that I could savor the words again. Tretheway grew up in the South and teaches at Emory University – her poems are infused with Southern themes, American themes – growing up biracial in the South, loving the mystique of New Orleans, suffering through the ravages of Katrina, and knowing profound loss. Here is Tretheway reading one of her Karina poems, Liturgy:
You can read more about Tretheway here and enjoy her poem “History Lesson” here.