Hair Color
by Nancy Lubarsky

I never knew my father dyed my mother’s
hair. It happened at night, after I went to sleep.
Onetime their muffled voices woke me. They
didn’t know I was there. I sat in our small

apartment’s dark living room, peered around
the corner. They were in the kitchen, her back
to him, covered with old sheets, a few more
spread underneath. At first, I wasn’t sure—

there was just a sour smell. She leaned back
against his chest, her eyes closed, his thick
arms above her head. He rubbed her temples,
then one plastic-gloved hand picked up the

narrow brush, dipped it in the mixture. Slowly,
he parted her hair, dabbed at the white roots.
There was a swish sound as he stroked back
and forth, lifting layer after layer of hair. They

hardly spoke except when he whispered, tilt
your head. I saw him catch a drip with his finger
before it reached her chin. He wiped her cheek
with a cloth. I dozed off for a while, until I heard

her chair scrape the floor. There they were, in
the same position—her forehead and temples
now framed with what seemed like mud.
They were both so still. Just waiting.

PAINTING: Woman with red hair by Amedeo Modigliani (1917)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother always prided herself on being a “redhead” and my sister and I had no reason to disbelieve her. She used to go to the beauty salon weekly but stopped when my father became ill and had to cut back on his hours. I guess he did her hair as a way to save money, but they didn’t want us to know. Perhaps keeping this a secret was their way of protecting us. When I saw them that night, I thought I had discovered some deep, dark secret they had been hiding from us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Lubarsky writes from Cranford, New Jersey. An educator for over 35 years, she retired as a superintendent. Nancy has been published in various journals, including Exit 13, Lips, Tiferet, Poetic, Stillwater Review, and Paterson Literary Review. Her work received honorable mention in the 2014 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, and again in 2016 and 2018. She is the author of two collections: Tattoos (Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Press, a Division of Aldrich Books). She received honorable mention in The Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Contest (2018), and has received three Pushcart Prize nominations.