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A quarterly international literary journal


/ Poetry /

Cut it all back

I hear myself tell him.

All the bright length I kept

as my hair grew in silver.

Eight or nine inches insisting I could still be desired.

Each individual lock—light as floss, once fingered—

falls soundlessly to the tile.

The hairdresser, tattooed wrist to collar, is merciful in his slow ministrations. He takes his time,

like the funeral director

who apologized to my mother’s body

as we unfolded her cold arms

into her dress sleeves.

He tells me his band

used to play out in Baltimore.

I say I’ve been to the aquarium there

to visit an octopus—quite famous

for its cognitive functions—

and I watched it play catch

with a marine biologist

for almost an hour, the red ball

floating slowly back and forth

between tentacle and gloved hand

across the illuminated tank water.

It is strange to think an octopus

will only lay a single clutch of eggs

before she dies. That she will comb

and braid her many offspring

into complex strands and blow bubbles

all around to keep them clean.

My insides are barely sticking together.

I will have to mother my own bones

until they sing again. Still, he is so

tender with my head as if it were

delicate and mattered to him.

The callused tips of his two fingers

bow its weight forward

while the cold edge of his scissors

rests against the nape of my neck.


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