roberta n2
The Long and Short of It
by Robbi Nester

Once, I dreaded nothing more
than the two words “pixie cut.”
Feathery and fey, just barely
covering my ears. Wasn’t it
bad enough to have the stature
of an imp without the haircut too?

Like others cursed or blessed
with curls, I wish for nothing
but a thick straight do, growing
past my shoulders, down my back.
No braids for me, no smooth straight bob.
Grown long, my hair puffs out
around my head, a ball of baling wire,
dandelion gone to seed.

Nothing to do but snip it
till it piles around my ankles.
Hairdressers have shown me
the part I never see, lacking
a rearview mirror. Orderly curls
and waves others can only envy,
once pruned judiciously,
topiary in a formal garden.
But somehow, after I leave the shop,
each wave rebels, springing
sideways from my head,
refusing to be quelled.

I once fought every follicle,
but now I’m wiser.
Why should my hair be different
from the rest of me,
wanting its own way,
obstinate and ornery
as a river following its course,
however inconvenient?

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I thought this photo from my high school yearbook (Northeast High School, Philadelphia, 1971) would give some idea about the hair in question. I have difficult hair. Over the years, I have become reconciled to accepting its wayward behavior.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw this submission call, I knew I had to write about my hair, which has always been an obsession, one of the difficult parts of being myself. My hair’s natural wave and curls, combined with its thin texture, render it difficult to cut. Consequently, I’ve had lots of disastrous haircuts and more than my share of bad hair days. But on good days, it is also capable of amazing things.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), a collection of poems, A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), and a forthcoming collection, Other-Wise (Tebot Bach). She also edited an anthology of poems inspired by public media, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It (Nine Toes, 2014).