Breakup Hair
by Katie Darby Mullins

Sometimes, cutting it all off isn’t enough
to make a clean life between where you
are going and who you have been: sometimes
you have to scorch the earth, start over.
Use it. What was once flat—so flat
like limp weight, hanging over your shoulders—
will be new. These tight curls, these spirals
surrounding your slight face, smile:
there he is, the only man on a campus
of boys, slight stutter and wavy locks,
and he’s looking at you
and he works in New York now
and he can probably hear your heart beat from here
and he offers to show you ‘around town’
and you know (and are sad) it’s not a metaphor
and—look at you.
          Your mom taught you never to get a perm
Why in God’s name did you get a perm?
Now? But you can’t worry about that—
it is time to work with the frizzy mess
orbiting your usually sleek head,
time to shake those curls with laughter
and pretend that the whole time, you aren’t
just wishing you had shaved it.
At least that would set you apart from
those stupid New York girls.
And maybe, maybe this time, things
will be different, and they won’t end
in a barber’s chair, making a decision
between a bad color and a bad cut.

PHOTO: The author sporting a perm in 2008.


Katie Darby Mullins
teaches creative writing at the University of Evansville. In addition to being nominated for a Pushcart Prize and editing a rock ‘n roll crossover edition of the metrical poetry journal Measure, she’s been published or has work forthcoming in journals like Hawaii Pacific Review, Harpur Palate, Prime Number, Big Lucks, Pithead Chapel, The Evansville Review, and she was a semifinalist in the Ropewalk Press Fiction Chapbook competition and in the Casey Shay Press poetry chapbook competition. She’s also the lead writer and founder of the music blog
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