Mother combing her daughter
Rats’ nests
by Lee Parpart

You lean in with your comb drawn like a switchblade.

“If you can’t take care of your hair, we’ll have to cut it off.”

The look of frazzled discontent as you work your slender, ringless fingers through a frizzy brown clump the size of an apricot.

“Look at these rats’ nests.”

Your own blond mane falls perfectly straight. You complain about its thinness and say you admire my curls, but this is the price we pay for our difference. An hour spent perched on the bed, fighting nature.

“Stop! In the Name of Love” skips to a finish on the blue record player box in a corner of the room.

You cross the floor quickly in shimmering semi-opaque tights, mini dress a canvas of brown and orange circles edged in white. I think you are leaving but you restart the song and return to my side.

“Keep still,” you whisper. Then “please,” as an afterthought.

In your head, I know, you are hunched in a graduate school cubicle, writing a paper on Marx. Or feminism. Or Marxist feminism. Wondering when the divorce papers will arrive. Whether the lawyer managed to get a signature at the hospital.

The needle skates across the smooth end of the LP and taps against the metal pin.

You hit a sore spot and my feet criss-cross under me as I try not to cry out.

That morning, I annoyed you, for what felt like the thousandth time, with my inability to choose the right socks before school. Refusing all dozen identical white anklets for the same reason: “They don’t feel right.”

You work in silence, beginning to make progress on one of the rats’ nests. Mentally crafting the body of your paper, or maybe its conclusion. I study your face for clues, and think about The Supremes, with their perfect shoulder-flip do’s.

PHOTO: “Mother combing daughter’s hair” by Milaphoto, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lee Parpart is a poet and media studies writer based in Toronto, Canada, who has taught film studies and published widely on Canadian cinema and visual art. Her older poems appeared in the tiny, pre-digital literary magazine Hegira, and her newer work is beginning to move out of its cramped Mac folder and into the world. One of her poems appeared in Silver Birch Press’s “Same Name” series in January 2016.