Kosa: Hair

By | 1 December 2013
'I had very long hair ... but I was a cleaner, there were the children ... so I had to cut it,
and the German hairdresser said, "Are you sure?" ... So she tied a band around my hair,
looked away and cut.' — Terezija Vucko

Once in Port Kembla, she looked away and cut Your hair, clean at the nape—and laid the brown plait In your hands. 'Be sure to keep it,' she said, Her face turned away to the ocean that witnessed your long journey From home. Did she feel, in the roots of her own hair, The salt spray? The wave that rocked your grief In this severance from all your beloved? Mother plaiting your hair, Father touching it before letting go, Or the lamplight halo As you worked the strands of hemp for a tablecloth, And the Croatian night, its final kiss. She looked away and cut—her hands and scissors, Even her own scalp besieged by loss She could not fully understand, just as She could not quite say the word kosa—hair In your own tongue, Terezija. Yet in that moment of touching-cutting history, love, Perhaps there was a sudden tug at the roots Of both your hair, your kosa, Of different stories of tenderness Different longings— Ah, how bittersweet This gift of resonance, this knowing.

Inside glass, Terezija Vucko’s plait of brown hair. Intimate and vulnerable. Or perhaps it is I who has been rendered vulnerable. I am witnessing something severed from a body, a life, a history threading Australia and Croatia. Terezija tells me how this necessary ‘cutting’ happened in Port Kembla, in the hands of a German hairdresser. ‘Kosa,’ Terezija teaches me the word for ‘hair.’ She is pleased I can say it correctly. The German hairdresser could not. What other words could not be said? What other words were severed from the tongue of the German hairdresser or Terezija, or their children? They learned to speak English. But Terezija sings in her own tongue, and the words flow, are restored. The hair and all its threaded memories are returned to a body, a life, a history. ‘See this,’ she says. Beside the hair, a tablecloth spun from hemp under a lamplight on one Croatian night.

Return to Story Circle: The Transnational Story Hub and the Inspiraciones Literarias, a chapbook curated by Merlinda Bobis.

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