Soto's Black Hair
The title of Soto’s “Black Hair” is very ordinary. The image that forms from the color “black” serving as an adjective to describe the common noun “hair” paints a mundane picture that does not allow for any analysis beneath this concrete image. But in cases where the title is not an attention getter, the content of the poem is usually more of a challenge and Soto’s “Black Hair” is a perfect example. As the title suggests, there are many concrete images and figures presented throughout the poem, but after a close reading it is apparent that the underlying themes of family and culture lay beneath these tangible images through the poetic elements of the metonymy, the metaphor, color imagery, and the pun.
The poem begins by introducing the main figure in the poem, a naturally talented baseball player named Hector Moreno. To the narrator, the game of baseball is more than just a simple game, “it [is] a figure – Hector Moreno” (6). Describing Hector Moreno initially as a figure closely associated with the game of baseball shows just how revered a person Hector is in the narrator’s mind. This image of Hector Moreno is quite concrete, but as the poem continues, the narrator expresses to the reader that his father died sometime during his childhood, as “his [father’s] face no longer [hangs] over the table” (18). Suddenly the image of Hector Moreno is not as concrete as it first appears, especially through the lines leading up to Moreno’s first appearance on the baseball field “in the lengthening shade” (4-5). The shadow of the narrator’s father over the dinner table when he was a boy has now taken the form of Moreno’s figure in the shade over the baseball field since the narrator’s father has died. This initial metonymy helps the reader to understand the importance of Hector Moreno in the narrator’s life, as it is clear that the figure of Hector Moreno contributes to the theme of family in the poem.
The “black torch” (16) is another concrete image that has a very important underlying meaning to the theme of family and culture in the poem. Quite obviously referring to the narrator’s head of hair, the black torch serves as an extended metaphor of his troubled past. Although the torch is still burning, the fact that the narrator questions when his torch will go out (16) indicates that his hair might soon turn grey...