/ 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.