by Judy Kronenfeld

1956: the charged air of the “beauty parlor,”
slivered with the acetone of nail polish remover,
flammable with mists of hair spray and silver
and gold highlighters, heavy with the slick
sweetness of pomade, cacophonous with blasts
of hood hair-dryers, and fang-nailed women,
fingers held aloft, raising the gossip
decibels as they turn the pages of True Confessions
with their wrists. Presiding: the pompadoured hetero
hairdresser—lordly as Monsieur Champagne,
creating towering tresses plied with taffeta
and lace in seventeenth-century Paris—
dallying even with me, barely-into-adolescence,
bestowing hello and goodbye kisses
which promise and seal
the allure for sale.

Fifty years later, at the salon specializing
in the deceptive color that maintains
an illusion of fertile power: still the unasked-for embrace
from the hairdresser, intimate stranger,
co-conspirator, in on the staging,
the props. His manner: a dark comic’s,
a doctor’s, a date’s: first jocular with shaver
in hand (“bare scalp is the new
‘crop’”); then patiently listening—a little bit
aloof—to what went awry last time,
what is desired now; then flirtatious,
as if pitching the witchery he’s sure
to create.

Monsieur Champagne once turned
on a woman whose hair he’d been assembling,
and told her—wielding stilettos of tu,
instead of vous—no style would ever
compensate for her huge nose;
then abandoned her—half-concocted—
and walked out.

But my kind coiffeur only inserts
his toweled thumbs a little roughly
into my wet ears, after my shampoo—
as if to dry those whorls gently
were indecorous—and bends
over my lined face to wrap
the towel around my head,
and says nothing to suggest
how much more I need him
than he me.

SOURCE: Originally published in Soundings Review (Fall/Winter 2013).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My 70s hair—steel wool variant. With my shining-haired daughter, 1976, West Lafayette, Indiana.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Hair” came directly out of the felt awkwardness of an ordinary human relationship—between a woman and her (newish) hairdresser. An impulse towards widening and broadening led me to memories of my first such experiences, and, quite luckily, to a bit of research which unearthed some fascinating information about the first French “celebrity coiffeur,” who served aristocrat clients in seventeenth-century Paris. Wonderfully, the vulnerability of even elite women when having their hair “concocted” emerged from my limited trolling on the web, and chimed with my own.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld’s fourth full-length collection of poetry, Bird Flying Through the Banquet, will be published by FutureCycle Press in 2017. Her most recent prior books of poetry are Shimmer (WordTech Editions, 2012) and the second edition of Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths (Antrim House, 2012), winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize; her most recent chapbook is Ghost Nurseries (Finishing Line, 2005). Her poems have appeared in many print and online journals (such as Avatar, Calyx, Cimarron Review, Connotation Press, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Natural Bridge, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Sequestrum), and  in 18 anthologies, including Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State, 2009), Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle (Lost Horse, 2012), and Weatherings (Future Cycle Press, 2015).  She has poems forthcoming in the anthologies Far Out: Poems of the 60s (Wings Press), and Bared (Femmes Folles Press), among other places.  Judy is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon. Visit her at