Reticule, a poem by Eley Williams

In 1944, having responded to a newspaper ad requesting women to donate locks to the war effort, Mary Babnik Brown cut off her blonde hair. Unknown to her, it was used in bomb-sights in aircraft.

RETICULE, BY ELEY WILLIAMS

Thinloosed arrows through their loopholes’ aglets
awry    agley    eyelet-ugly

Mary Babnik Brown donated handfuls of her hair
to US military not for the money but notionally for weather

34 inched lines of unskeined peltings all
a shock of hair with every strand

roughly the length of capercaillies
standing without shoes out in their snow

(belly and undertail coverts vary
from black to white, depending)

each one resilient enough for use in crosshairs
so that sweet Mary’s warp and weft lay stretched

and shuttled straight through Norden bombsights
way across the world, and all their calculated

tachometric pitched descents roughly parabolic
once one has acknowledged any wanton drag or drift,

protein’s time-honoured bombast and its wailing uncanonic
heft, the twice-unwavered lengths to which it goes

to loom renewed in some quiet other snow
footfall as onomatomania, whirligauged,

lek’s infantry, a cock with triggers in every throat—
reliquaries lose labels and it’s only then that import’s lost

beneath the glass, hair fair brittled into injust frass
and instar while mist is defined as fog if visibility is less than oh

one hundred metres (but for pilots the distance is one kilometre)
air is a difficulty of turns

today the weather’s good and finds me poor and shorn—
unwarm, I wear these short days trippingly, or underwarned

 

 

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