poem, not currently titled.

After cutting him off for the second time I take large scissors to my hair in the hallway bathroom of my mother’s house. Careful, as I have always been: please don’t think I might not be in control here. Chestnut brown falls in handfuls to the water of the toilet; a layer gathers in intervals of half and quarter-inches. I think of the handfuls, chestnut brown, that fell when I was sixteen and thin: in the shower, clogging the drain, tangling my fingers, filling the creases of my pillowcase each morning. The hair is the first thing to go, before even the pounds, when the climate of the body becomes too inhospitable.

What happened to your hair? my grandmother shouts when she sees it. I cut it, I say. But why? she shouts.

(because I am hopeful. because I am broken. because the reasons are too hard to prove.)

For months I cut in secret like how I used to throw away food. I cut my hair instead of my skin, though that has never been my refuge: I cut as replacement for other, more familiar, self denials. Always with faith that what I want to see will soon emerge from the glass, hopes tied tight in the harvest of my own hair. I am not what I want but at least I am not what I was; at least I am not that hungry girl, hair weighing more than her body.

When he is in Arizona with cacti and his grandmother, I let another man sleep in my bed. His hands at the base of my spine, white and shaking like starved at sixteen; his teeth at the base of my shaking, short clipped skull. When I tell him how long it’s taken to allow myself my body he shudders, begs Are you joking? I do not tell him that really, I am lying: that permission has not happened. I am still stuck cutting pieces of history and love off, inch by inch, when I know a little better than to go after my flesh with the same blades.

When our clothes are gone already he asks Is that your hair, in the bathroom? Short pieces in the toilet, in the sink, on the floor. I tell him that it is, but not that they are boundaries removed, rules that I have been collecting solely for the purpose of throwing away.

That night creates a tangle of trusts broken, as if by small, sharp silver scissors. I will be forgiven, but this is not the point. I will keep cutting for months still. Until in all my dreams I know my body, and dark hair falls on shoulders in my sleep. Not as regression, but permission. Not to cleave, but cleave together. Mend, flesh: hum and grow. Because I am broken. Because one day I will not be. Because I am hopeful.


Anonymous said...

i just found my way here from your comment on shapely prose, and just had to say, thank you. this is lovely. i'm glad you wrote it.

amelia k. bowler said...

that's wonderful to hear; thank you so much.