Woolf’s Hair

                   by Eva Heisler            

A woman carrying the evening’s fish up the stairs,
counting steps, counting krónur, 

forgetting the bannister was varnished that day,
gripping the curve of mahogany—

in a few months, she’ll have vanished from Reykjavik 
as quietly as a hairpin drops on a walk to the corner store

—a hairpin slipping into a flooded manhole—

and Bárugata 21, a palm print 
preserved in shellac three steps from the second-floor landing,

it will remain,
and the gray hair on a cardigan at the Kolaportið Flea Market.

The woman who scowled and complained, 
she’s gone—

like the hairpin Virginia Woolf stuck into her unruly bun 
at 34 Paradise Road 

before puttering with the hand press that isn’t there anymore. 
O, to be the hairpin at Woolf’s nape as she absentmindedly sorted type

on a cold December day before dinner at the Bibescos. 
To be the hairpin that, as Bibesco talked about Ruskin

and she attacked Rupert Brooke, dropped into Woolf’s soup.  
To be that hairpin she plucks from pea soup,

sucks like a bone—
pushes back into the tangled mess. 

Co-winner of the 2021 Poetry International Prize
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