Betsy purpletips (2)
Hair Ball
by Betsy Mars

My hair has always been my manestay:
consistent and resistant to changing fashions,
the muted wallflower at the ball.
I refused to part with my part.
Harangues about my bangs met disdain.
Like Samson, my strength was in my length  —
so I believed, and so never made the cut.

In my twenties, a flighty fling with a perm proved temp.
I scurried back to the tried and true,
where my hair remained, unaltered.
I had never stressed about my tresses.
A bad hare day meant a wild rabbit ruckus,
outracing Mr. McGregor and his lethal shovel.

But then, through three winters, I hibernated,
wrapped in a cocoon of my own making.
I emerged with my heart in a web of uncertainty.
I coughed up the tangled hairball strands
and entered the body of my true self, now visible.
Back to my roots my mane was a means
to a new end, unmuted.
Purple spread vibrant like tulips in spring.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Dip-dyed purple hair tips. Posed by my daughter to capture my sense of creative abandon in the summer of 2012.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My hair has endured basically unchanged over time and I was hard-pressed to think of any particularly significant memories regarding it for this prompt. I then remembered a time a couple of years ago after a particularly difficult period in my life when I had essentially gone underground. In the summer when school was out and I had no need to maintain any semblance of professionalism, I decided to finally let loose and allow my daughter to play with my hair. That summer was one of the best of my life — filled with theatre, paint by number art projects, horseback riding — as I returned to the world and enjoyed a sense of fun and creativity in a way that I had never felt entitled to. It was as if, having survived all of the crises and change, I was making up for lost time in embracing life, and my hair reflected that aliveness. In a similar way, my word play in this poem is a departure from my recent poetry and is lighter in tone and content.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a Southern California poet, mother, and animal lover with a severe case of travel fever. She has been drawn to writing throughout her life and is finally breaking free of self-doubt as well as the energy-sapping life events of the past couple of years. Her brief foray into hair color experimentation was an expression of that emergence, but now she relies on her writing instead.