from 1000 Reasons to Cut Your Hair


I'm tired of fragility.


Outside, it's lightly raining.
At dawn, it makes
the city look like glass.

I've forgotten my umbrella:
tiny feet of drops
popcorn pops of drips
auto wrecks of liquid
massage and trickle
the snare drum of March
into the gunshot of Spring.


Shaving one's head
makes at least as much sense
as plucking one's eyebrows.

I crouch in the sunlight.
in the mirror, my face is melting.
Pulling out my facial hair by the roots,
I wonder about my sanity.

But I have seen photographs
of myself with this one,
enormous eyebrow
and the dark shadow above my lip.


Most men keep their hair short,
so there's got to be something in it,
and I want what men have:
to grow old gracefully,
to be thought handsome and sleek,
close to instinct,
partial to cigars,
taken seriously.

But when you're an epidermis
surrounding a womb,
a being that could at any moment
howl like a dog
and drop a fetus at your feet,


Aren't you
even a little bit
about the shape of your head?


O hair, hair:
Our one sure source
of sexual identification.
Leaving you behind on the tiles
takes a gum eraser to the lines--
re-draws them to suit the mood:
dotted lines,
squiggly lines,
huge grey lines
wide as Florida cane fields.
no lines at all.

You have to decide.


A man in a suit.
A man in a suit on the subway.
A man with two friends,
also in suits, on the subway,
calls me a dyke.
He says, "You dyke."
He screams, "You, dyke."


If I've gotta work
for less money than a man,
fight like hell for promotions,
and be called a bitch for it,
then by God I'll be a bitch.
But I'm giving them fair warning.
They can see me coming.
I've become a swimmer
who shaves the body so
no earthly element can slow the body down.


Can't anyone bait me in a weak moment
to go back to a desert interior of computers,
fax machines, bowing and scraping,
get your coffee right away, sir,
just the way you like it pantyhose and suit scene.
I'd have to give it a month's thought first.


People, strangers,
often ask to feel my hair,
run their hands across it.
As if crewcuts
were different from other hair.
Go ahead.
It feels like velvet.
Short hair
is a pregnant woman's belly:
public property.


I want you to see my face,
my expressions,
my eyes,
how the skin fits over the bone.
It's as though I've come out of hiding
and any one who wants
can share my secrets;
can see how we all look alike.


I am a threat,
ready to Joan of Arc
crash and burn;
a pre-Vatican II nun
bound to be true to her God,
renounce worldly things,
and concentrate upon what's important;
a new-born child;
a victim of disease who lives each moment
because moments are finite;
a warm gust of wind on your cheek;
an odalisque;
a gum eraser;
greater than the sum of my parts.


Unlike the Biblical Samson,
I'm stronger without hair.
In this talisman against rape,
freedom from time-consuming ritual
primping for sexual conquest,
exempt from the gravity of expectation.
My own definition of beauty
and artistic triumph;
A living, breathing, fuck you.

Jan McLaughlin

Copyright © Jan McLaughlin
June 1996

Next in ring: ...two poems in this room by Barry Spacks...
Back to room: i lie in an autumn pile of your kisses
Back to AgD: Return to Agnieszka's Dowry Welcoming Room

Copyright © 1996 A Small Garlic Press. All rights reserved.
Created 1996/5/4. Updated last on 2000/7/17.