She climbs easily on the box that seats her above the swivel chair
At adult height, crosses her legs, left ankle over right,
Smoothes the plastic apron over her lap while the beautician
Lifts her ponytail and laughs, “This is coarse as a horse’s tail!”
And then as if it that was all there is to say,
The woman at once whacks it off and tosses its
foot and a half length into the trash.
And the little girl who didn’t want her hair cut,
But long ago learned successfully how not to say
What it is she wants,
Who, at even at this minute cannot quite grasp
her shock and grief,
Is getting her hair cut. “For convenience,” her mother put it.
The long waves gone that had been evidence at night,
When loosened from their clasp,
She might secretly be a princess.
Rather than cry out, she grips her own wrist
And looks to her mother in the mirror.
But her mother is too polite, or too reserved, or too indifferent.
To defend the girl
So the girl herself takes up indifference,
While the pain follows a channel to a hidden place
Almost unknown to her,
Convinced as she is, that her own emotions are not the ones
her life depends on,
She shifts her gaze from her mother’s face
Back to the haircut now,
So steadily as if this short-haired child she sees were someone else.
by David Levine
This is a heart-wrenching story of how a child can learn to disconnect from her difficult feelings, when she isn’t given permission to experience this important and real part of being human. I’m imagining how the child longs to feel seen by her mother, to have her choices matter, to feel understood, and how lonely it would feel to be her….