I got a haircut.
I got them all cut.
I cut it all off, my absent big-cat mane,
my main missing link to my femininity,
and I think my mother is pissed.
I am shorn like a ewe, and you
cannot imagine how I haven’t missed
my lioness’s tresses.
Her dead-end objection, devoid of inflection, insists:
“You had such pretty hair, you had sunset hair, you had
tangled-knotty-curly hair that obscured an auburn sky.”
But Ma, now it’s funky hair, now it’s easy hair, now I can
wash my hair six times a night and it will dry exactly right
every sudsy time.
Now it’s a radical liberal political rhyme. Now it’s scalprooted
poetry: the less that’s there, the more significant my statement.
Now it reflects the unrestrainable, irreplaceable,
She lectures like a sonorous sewing machine:
“You look like a boy.”
Mom, you mean I look like a dyke.
I knocked you off-kilter and the ponytailed filter
that allowed your perspective of
has been clipped. The closet is clear-cut. My slate is full up
with this silent scrawlin’—I will not let you pretend to
ignore the forest that’s fallen from my face.
I am stark, I am satiated in this suddenly-sparse
space, I am uncomplicated without
cornrows of cautious trees. I am caged neither by
the scabs of a boy nor
the arms of a man.
I am free.
Besides, Big Mama, dig my breasts,
dig my hips,
dig this sarcastic, cynical, shit-eating grin pussyfooting
across my lips—dig this salty-sugarshockin’ stanza, then
hold my green dragon eye and tell me, ain’t I a woman, Mother
whip-strong and smart,
Her dialtone diatribe plods on:
“You’ll be alone for the rest of your life.”
Last night I discovered the shape of my head.
Last night I shed my last unearned vanity—
what a travesty, that barretted keratin is
beheld as beauty, but my fuzzy silhouette is
insufferably unlovable. Should I
shave and snip and twist and grow
into this newest feminist
Emancipated Liberated Womanhood Mold?
Should I hold my chin against my chest in bald, bold penance?
I have taken the path less split, less ending,
I have taken to befriending
each brief breeze that breaks
across my crown.
I will not take this shit lying down.
I will not regard independence as an impediment.
Ain’t no one can prevent this
witchy warrior invocation:
Today I stave off cellular, soul-ular starvation.
She lets go of her breath like a derelict daughter:
“I just want someone to love you.”
Ah. But I savor that which I lack—
for hair, like a parent’s favor,
usually grows back.
—from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Tribute to Slam Poetry