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Combing by Gladys Cardiff
Transcript of Combing by Gladys Cardiff
The word "orange"
- describes the color of the hair, the coil of the stove, and the rags torn for rugs
- the color gives off a sense of warmth and happiness suggesting the warmhearted affection people feel from their loved ones
- One meaning of downcast is sad. However, there is no hint of sadness in the poem. The poet seems to be using the word in its other sense, “turned downward,” because the poem’s characters are described as leaning forward with tilted heads.
- separate strands of hair represent the different generations, all being connected and intertwined
I bow my head while combing my daughter's hair and think about how women bond.
My daughter's wet hair is orange, curly, and smells nice.
She is being quiet for her age, with her face looking downward.
I am now in her position.
I feel my mother's hands putting my clean hair in a tight braid.
Before I go to school, I hear the orange coils of the over ticking as I sit in front of it.
My mother combed her grandmother's hair using a comb made out of bone.
Grandmother sat in her oak wood rocking chair with her head facing down, while tearing pieces of rags to make a rug.
Preparing hair is a commonly done activity.
Women do this for each other, which intertwines all of the generations.
Combing by Gladys Cardiff
Bending, I bow my head
and lay my hands upon
her hair, combing, and think
how women do this
for each other. My daughter's hair
curls against the comb,
wet and fragrant - orange
parings. Her face, downcast,
is quiet for one so young.
I take her place. Beneath
my mother's hands I feel
the braids drawn up tight
as piano wires and singing,
before the oven I hear
the orange coils ticking
the early hour before school.
She combed her grandmother
Mathilda's hair using
a comb made out of bone.
Mathilda rocked her oak wood
chair, her face downcast,
intent on tearing rags
in strips to braid a cotton
rug from bits of orange
and brown. A simple act
Preparing hair. Something
women do for each other,
plaiting the generations.
The way the author speaks of the
bond of an ordinary activity and how it connects one generation to the next creates a feeling of comfort. This poem expresses a feeling of affection, because of how it is linked between a family. Also, while reading this poem, the tone is very relaxed and calm.
The shift occurs in lines 10-17.
The poem now relates to the speaker, which is the mother, who is sharing a memory of when her mother would comb and braid her hair. It affects the poem by sharing a personal experience from the speaker. This shows the reoccurring activity of preparing hair and how it connects to the same experience of her daughter.
"braids drawn up tight as piano wires "
- comparing the braid to be as strong and tight as piano wire
- symbol of how strong the bond is between women throughout the generations
"Sitting before the oven I hear The orange coils tick The early hour before school."
- The ticking sound acts as a clock and resembles the passing of time as each generation follows the next
"My daughter's hair
Curls against the comb,
Wet and fragrant"
- also shows the similarity between the daughter
and mother's experience
A simple act in every day life can link together different generations that are separated by time.