Ode to the Cortex

Carrie Addington


You think I mean cerebral
as in brain, as in gray matter, as in
the role the cortex plays
in memory and language, but
I mean hair, the cortex of the hair shaft. 

You didn’t know it had one.
It’s located between the medulla
and the cuticle. You think of nail
cuticles and the brain again,
but we’re talking about hair I tell you.

The cortex holds the hair’s pigment,
as in color, as in melanin,
as in the same thing found in skin,
your skin, olive-toned, pressed
against mine, translucent, which
is to say you can see right
through, like the ends of hair,
brittle and breaking.

The cortex of anatomy, of
archeology, of botany, all refers
to the outer layer. With hair,
it’s all middle, the between,
equidistant, middlemost, made up
of temporary bonds, bonds
that can be broken, any bond
can be broken. Don’t you see
what I’m saying? Don’t you see?