In your hands, the scissors snip with a precision that is and isn’t exact. My silver curls fall away from my head in slow motion and tumble down the length of my body, falling beneath my kitchen chair that sits on the porch facing the apple orchard. It’s mid-September, the end of summer, and here we are, caught in the conversation that is hard to accept. Yet, you, my only daughter, have taken my hair into your hands; and, measuring twice, lengths between thumb and forefinger and sharp flat blades, you cut and cut, until you can see the dome of my scalp, my infancy redux, pink and round and free of beauty marks.
This isn’t perfect, you say, but it’s close. I close my eyes and feel the slight breeze swirl around me; and, without thinking, I reach up and pass my hand over my head’s resistance, those short, resilient bristles, still standing, but not for long.
Soon, my husband’s clippers buzz close to my ears, and follow the outline of my hairline. Gone, widow’s peak and duck’s ass, and every last flint of hair caught in its teeth. In a moment of distraction, my husband proves there is a silver lining by holding the clogged clipper head in front of me. Make a wish, he says, in his sing-song tone. I take a deep, steady breath and blow all the bits of hair high into the air. Where they land is anyone’s guess; like wishes, they are hard to see.
This is the way to save your life. Like Rapunzel, I cut my hair. Once again, the braid, that was the weight I carried, becomes the rope of my escape. Out of the tower, I hoist myself up and out, and down into the woods, where I’ll wander until I find the right path. I open my eyes.
So you’ve done it. My youngest son comes out onto the porch and skirts around my chair, looking at my head from all angles, while the cat threads between his steps. How do I look? He pauses and says he’ll get a mirror. Where’s there a mirror? Anywhere—any one of them will do. He returns, holding a small hallway mirror in front of me, and I look cautiously—my eyes, my face, my baldness—floating there in the space between me and this strange, uncharted world.
M. J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 29 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: https://mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.