“This is what attracted us.
It shines to us, this waste”

From ‘Archaeology’ by John N. Morris


Object Record: Corporeal Keepsake

Object Type: Bracelet

Date: ca. 1850

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Place of Origin: England

Categories: Jewellery, Metalwork, Death, Personal Accessories

Materials & Techniques: Hair, gold, engraving

Physical Description: A bracelet band made from plaited human hair, held in a gold scroll-engraved hinged clasp

Dimensions: Length: 16.8cm 
                           Width: 1.8cm

Credit Line: Bequeathed by Miss ____

Summary: This bracelet is composed of light brown plaited hair. Over time, the strap colour has faded, and the strands have grown stiff and brittle. A few broken hairs poke out along the length of the band. (On closer inspection, it seems that the object is haunted, its tendrils ghost-ridden.)

Subtle motifs imply that the object may have been mourning jewellery. A startling aspect of Victorian death culture, locks of hair, clipped from the body of a dead loved one, were fashioned into jewellery and worn on the body of the living. It is likely that a friend, family member or lover worked the hair into this bracelet before taking it to a jeweller or professional hairworker to be finished. (Gripping, smoothing, dividing, pulling, twisting, plaiting, weaving every touch manifests intensities of longing.)

For the Victorians, these treasured tresses were charmed tokens that held some of the magic of holy relics from bygone days. A material form of faith, possessing a fragment of the beloved could provide a comforting, shimmering link to that place where the person might still exist. (These adored coils of hair trouble the life-and-death divide. Trace the play of presence and absence. Linger over this evidence of loss woven into the texture of union.)

The shapes of other hair bracelets in the collection indicate that they were set apart from the body when worn. However, this object’s plaits and patterning suggest that it would have brushed against the wrist. (In this contact with the skin, grief bruises again and again. Curling around the body, the bracelet reifies an eternal intimacy.)

This piece of anonymous hair jewellery is a materialised secret. (These darkly animated curls speak of the truth of the loved one.)

Collection: Metalwork Collection

Accession Number: M.­­­__-____

Not currently on display



One does not eat the shell, 
she says. 
The sunflower seed, she 
pinches between her fingertips, 
crystalline with salt: a  
high-noon gem. 
Así es. 
Between the teeth. 
Así es pipa. 
Outside the museum of beautiful art: 
leather skinned, tattered sack of marrow, 
baby-bellied and swollen with sun, 
he lies across a bench in the shade of a strange tree: 
trunk of coiled ropes, branches like 
the outstretched hand of God. 
Snores in slow, accordion heaves 
and the husks 
like pooled water. 
Así es pipa. 
The pile grows: 
zebra-skinned kindling. She 
discards the chaff; 
The sun is like— 
the sun is too hot— 
The sun is like egg yolk in 
gallons of oil— 
No te metas todo pa dentro, she says. 
Between the fingertips. 
Así es pipa. 
outside the farmhouse, 
Little Nati watches burly men in tractors 
rolling great, rubber wheels over 
sweet, exploding oranges. 
Old Trini stirs the rice, 
and Carmen paws her swollen womb 
and cigarette ash falls like  
thousand-year dust. 
Now Little Nati has the bit between the teeth. 
Bigger Nati's finger rounds the point. 
Así es pipa. 




Fiona Ices a Cake

“I […] wish I could preserve it, kind of like the volcano did for the people of Pompeii.”

Forgive me. I think the tin 
she baked it in
was meant to mold a dog. 

Forgive it, too: my keeping mum.
Kids’ ducts are dies 
for pear-shaped tears

and up to now I could not bear 
to make Fiona cry.
For say she thought her magic small.

Say she thought her dog-shaped cake
looked suitably equine—yes, one horn short 
a unicorn, but not an atom more. 

How could I tell Fiona, then,
the inch of pretzel that she’d cut 
stuck in a forelock she’d made up?

         It’s no small magic (I’d begin)
         to learn to ice a cake. 
         Or turn a corgi unicorn.

         To currycomb him all in sweet.
         To mete teal details out: a tail, 
         a mane, a wary eye.


To ice a cake and then turn nine—
of course she wanted it to keep,
her thickset, flighty colt.
But Fiona was right about Pompeii.
Preservation costs us dear. 
Better, then, the young eat cake.

Better they quarter their horses,
by which I mean better they give 
unicorns no immortal quarter.