the curve

bianca is cutting my hair
she holds a part of it
taut over my head
between two fingers
and cuts it with her 300 dollar shears
she says at first
she was too frightened
to cut hair
and she just watched
she thought how
do they do this?
all that hair
where do they start?
and now she's beginning
to master it
it's simple
the head is round
you just follow the curve

when bianca talks like this
i feel like the world
makes sense
i can relax
the world isn't really a chaos
of random accidents

before i go to the beauty shop
i wait until i hate
what looks back at me in the mirror
sometimes it's six months
the hair all frazzled
different lengths
hanging shapeless
i bring the hairdresser
my fear
and each hair that falls
diminishes my strength
i know i won't recognize the thing
the hairdresser creates —
some ugly duplicate
of the mass produced mass
of females walking around
all looking alike —
i ask them not to style
or spray it
just cut it
and let me out

but it's different today
bianca's cutting my hair
she listens to me
she does what i ask
she's still learning
and tells me about it
i trust her
and today
when she asks if she can style
and spray it
i say yes
it makes me happy
to have bianca learn on my head
i feel like everything's simple
the world is round
i'll just follow the curve


cleaning the house

the smell of bleach
tells him i'm like his mother
he's been with me
more than two years
and one night he smokes marijuana
smells bleach in the bathroom
gets nauseous
and thinks of his mother
suddenly he understands why he walks
around me like some bomb
activated by movement
the smell of bleach
raging across forty years
telling him his work
isn't good enough
teaching him to get down on his knees
with a toothbrush
and work those corners
until they shine
and why doesn't it surprise me
how he lets his toilets
stain brown stinking
into the hallway
like the unrelenting stench of the rapid station
fire hydrant
atavistic male tendency
scent of separation, self-proclamation
sometimes we fight
all day long
comet in the toilet
women screaming
over nothing
a man losing
in the bleach

Wendy Shaffer, Poet
Cleveland, Ohio