“I Was Looking for a Job and All I Got Was a New Haircut” by Jen Gayda Gupta

Jen Gayda Gupta


after Torrin A. Greathouse after Danez Smith

Hair keeps you warm in the winter and gives you something to do with your fingers
when you are bored. When I was young my mother’s hair fell
below her butt and when she cut it off,
I hid in the bathroom and refused to speak with her,
which was the same reaction I had
when my father removed his beard
and when my friend suggested it was time
for me to shave my legs.
I was looking for a job because I left mine–
in real life at least. The dream me hasn’t noticed.
She just keeps showing up to school without a lesson plan
or clothes. Real me only gets out of bed
when the real dog’s cries are louder than the dream children’s screams.
Real me wears sweatpants till noon. Real me hasn’t packed a lunch in a year
and has gotten real good at convincing herself
that this is not her fault
but I got the haircut because my mother says
I look older with shorter hair, older meaning more experienced
more experienced meaning more qualified
and I kept getting carded at Trader Joe’s so there went a solid
twelve or thirteen inches that keep making their way back.
Maybe that is the reason
I’ve always had long hair, because it doesn’t stay short
and haircuts are expensive and I don’t
have a job. Maybe that’s the reason
I have stopped shaving my legs because I need a new razor
but I don’t want to buy one.
It’s not that the last one paid well
but they were really good at convincing us that the pay wasn’t the point,
that it was for the children and I did believe that
for a very long time until my friend started making three times as much for half
the work and it gave me an itch of an idea that maybe the point of a job
is to get paid after all.
I don’t think I was the only one who figured this out
because I keep hearing about a national teacher shortage
meanwhile my own hair shortage has still not produced a new job.
I haven’t figured out what I am trying to tell you or what I’m trying to do
with my life because teacher school teaches you that 50 percent of teachers
leave teaching in the first five years but they don’t teach you
what to do when you are done teaching.
They don’t teach you what to do
when you’ve spent enough weekends grading enough papers
to drive you to the cardboard, to pack up a whole apartment, get a few too many
tattoos, chop off your hair and start living
in a box attached to a car. What then?
What now?
It’s become a chicken and an egg situation,
the hair and the job
I mean I can’t cut my hair because I don’t have a job
and I don’t have a job because I can’t cut my hair
and yes I know that isn’t true
and yes I did stop shaving my legs because it makes me feel more like a werewolf
by which I mean more like myself,
and yes I do have a small job by which I mean part time
and yes it is teaching but this time rich kids because it pays better
but makes me hate myself so I didn’t want to tell you about it
but there. There’s the truth.
Does anyone know anyone
who is hiring?

from Poets Respond
August 21, 2022


Jen Gayda Gupta: “I miss my job. I worry for the students and the schools. But I won’t be going back this year.” (web)

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