Hair in a Kerchief
Susanna stretched her hand towards me. A delicate hand,
clenched, concealing a
When I opened it, I discovered a white kerchief,
neatly folded, tied with a matching white ribbon.
"This is my farewell gift to you," she said with a shy smile.
I took the parcel, feeling the sweat, the warmth, and the slight shuddering of her palm.
"Open it," she said.
I untied the ribbon.
Her initials were in the corner of the kerchief,
embroidered in a blend of pink-red letters.
I opened the white cloth.
In its center, like a drowsy kitten, I saw a red-golden lock of hair,
rolled like a spiral, shrunken like an embalmed skull.
"What's this?" I asked in astonishment.
"Don’t laugh at me… even if I sound… perhaps… a little florid and romantic…
This is my way to swear to you that we are allies.
It is a new covenant, a pact of trust, respect, and love,
between me (a Christian German woman) and you (a Jewish Israeli man)."
"But why hair?" I asked.
I failed to understand the symbolical meaning of her gesture.
"It's a custom. If you part with someone whom you wish to see again, you leave with
him a lock of hair. I know that a woman's hair has a religious and emotional significance
for you, Jews, also because of what happened in the Holocaust. I hope that you'll
regard my lock of hair as something like 'an eye for an eye' – 'a hair for a hair'."
"This is so noble…," I stammered,
as lines from Paul Celan's Death Fugue raced in my head:
"…your golden hair Margareta, your ashen hair Sulamith..."
I brought the kerchief close to my face and looked at the hair.
Its smell filled my nose with a familiar female scent.
The sunbeams shone on the kerchief 's frilled line.
I folded it carefully, capturing the rays of Ra within for keepsake,
as did the Egyptian priests millennia before me.
What a precious pact—I thought—not an everlasting covenant signed with blood
between us, Susanna,
or the Covenant of the Pieces, but a pact of radiating light.
No longer the light of calamity, but the light of amity in the folds of your kerchief.