Because it is utterly open to heaven and all its blessings.
Because when consciousness escapes my body at the moment of death no clinging tendrils will deﬂect its homeward ﬂight.
Because of the seven chakras it is the crown, the thousand-petalled rainbow-coloured lotus.
Because Don Juan told Carlos Castaneda that a warrior wears death on his right shoulder but I wear it every day on the top of my head.
Because while age shrinks the rest of my body, it alone continues to grow.
Because without it I might believe I will live forever.
Because it is a beacon to our little friends from outer space, showing them where they can safely land.
Because in seventeen tongues in seventeen lands it signifes virility.
Because it is the size and shape of a yarmulka, reminding me of all the minyans from which I absconded.
Because it could be innocently mistaken for a tonsure.
Because I always wanted to pass for a Christian brother. As I have always wanted to use the word tonsure in a poem.
Because I need not ask for whom the bathtub drain clogs. It clogs for me.
Because in growth and shape it is both circular and incremental and thus echoes, eerily, the incremental growth and circular shape of this poem.
Because through it my body is attuned to Gaia, and I grieve for her losses even as I grieve each falling hair.
Because it waxes with the ozone hole of Antarctica and wanes with the rainshadow coastal forests of my island home and its mountains Tuam, Maxwell, and Bruce.
Because it is both map and memory, keeping score of my wanderings like the rings of an ancient tree.
Because even as deserts spread through Africa’s grasslands, it devours my remaining cover.
Because it provides me daily practice in renunciation, and prods me to gradual progress in the arduous spiritual discipline of letting go.
Because its presence is that of absence and thus inclines me to the metaphysical.
Because it removes all impediments and interference, releasing me to write without restraint off the top of my head.
Copyright © Murray Reiss. Originally published in Cemetery Compost (Frontenac House, 2016).
Murray Reiss lives on Salt Spring Island with his wife Karen, a ceramic sculptor. His first book, The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild, won the 2014 Gerald Lampert Award and was runner-up for the Fred Cogswell Award. His second collection, Cemetery Compost, came out in 2016. A chapbook, Distance from the Locus, was published in 2005. Reiss also brings his words to life on the stage as well as the page as a Climate Action Performance Poet and founding member of Salt Spring’s Only Planet Cabaret.