Archives for category: MY MANE MEMORIES

the faith tones

We extend our gratitude to the 80 writers who participated in our MY MANE MEMORIES Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from Feb. 14-March 24, 2016. Many thanks to the following authors for an amazing series!

Elizabeth Alford (California)
Sandra Anfang (California)
Shawn Aveningo (Oregon)
Daisy Bala (Wisconsin)
Chloe Balcolm (England)
Rose Mary Boehm (Peru)
Nancy Brewka-Clark (Massachusetts)
Shonda Buchanan (Virginia)
Mary Buchinger (Massachusetts)
Susan Budig (Minnesota)
Susana H. Case (New York)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Sara Clancy (Arizona)
Marion Clarke (Northern Ireland)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Joanne Corey (New York)
Erika Dreifus (New York)
Kristina England (Massachusetts)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Gail Fishman Gerwin (New Jersey)
Susan W. Goldstein (Florida)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Geosi Gyasi (Ghana)
Tina Hacker (Kansas)
Stephanie Han (Hawaii)
Jennifer Hernandez (Minnesota)
Veronica Hosking (Arizona)
Robin Dawn Hudechek (California)
Mark Hudson (Illinois)
A.J. Huffman (Florida)
Trish Lindsey Jaggers (Kentucky)
Penn Kemp (Canada)
Phyllis Klein (California)
Steve Klepetar (Minnesota)
Tricia Knoll (Oregon)
Laurie Kolp (Texas)
Judy Kronenfeld (California)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Mary Leonard (New York)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
Rick Lupert (California)
Betsy Mars (California)
Patrick Lee Marshall (Texas)
Mary McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
Catfish McDaris (Wisconsin)
Linda McKenney (New York)
Katie Darby Mullins (Indiana)
Robbi Nester (California)
Anthony Oropeza (California)
Jimmy Pappas (New Hampshire)
Lee Parpart (Canada)
Rashmi Patel (Australia)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Kenneth Pobo (Pennsylvania)
Anita Pulier (New York)
Shirani Rajapakse (Sri Lanka)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Jeannie E. Roberts (Wisconsin)
Kristin Roedell (Washington)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
April Salzano (Pennsylvania)
Finola Scott (Scotland)
Seni Seneviratne (England)
Leslie Sittner (New York)
Billie Holladay Skelley (Missouri)
R.H. Slansky (California)
Joan Jobe Smith (California)
Bekah Steimel (Missouri)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
Maureen Sudlow (New Zealand)
Thomas R. Thomas (California)
Jeri Thompson (California)
Bunkong Tuon (New York)
Shaun Turner (West Virginia)
Alan Walowitz (New York)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Annette Wong (California)
Mantz Yorke (England)
Amanda Young (Pennsylvania)
Joanie HF Zosike (New York)


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.

daisy bala
Tenacious tresses
by Daisy Bala

Things that made me different were the things that made me
That included my mane — insane
Ever since I can visualize
Sitting atop my head
Twirling whirling unruly curls
Unpretentious and docile
Being scraped and torn with brushing
Like a cutie pootie toddler

I felt miserable
For spawning the little mop top
Like a dandelion head aspirations
I would flock school blocks
Eventually, puberty made me realize
Less is more with springy coiled heads

So I learned to maneuver like a maven
Shake it all up, shedding banality
And scatter it like a hedgehog.
My locks sputter now, luscious
Dashing through the face
And I get going my kinky curly ways

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: It’s my pic clicked a short while back when I was in a playful mood with my tresses, de-stressing myself.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I always felt my hair was my low point and pulled me out like a black sheep. But as I became more conscious about myself and my surroundings, I realized that my curly locks are my style statement. I started grooming and nourishing them, till I got in vogue. Now it’s my personality and defines me, filling in the contours.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daisy Bala lives in Wisconsin and maintains a blog, Her passion for life and nature’s vibrancy is reflected in her naïve writings. She wishes to make it a sustainable inspiration through continuous reading and learnings. She has yet to derive proclaim through her writings.

kelley white2
Poem in which I cut my hair after seven years
by Kelley White

as if that were it, the weight tying me to bricks,
the scarred ropes of my tears spun to wax, the breath
of my frozen rime evil gracing my face; as if a razor
could scrape me clean: as if I might bundle the cuttings
as harvest to lay before the hungry: as if I might keep
the braids as sustenance for cancerous masses; as if
I might weave a doormat for your dirty feet, as if I might
sweep clean the dust of my own shed skin, peel a scalp
in one smooth spiral infinite in tension and grace; as if I
might bind another soul with its fibers stained red;
as if I might bind you; as if I might tie myself to a sheaf
that would dry golden; as if I might pluck those strings
into a harpsong of feathered kindness; as if I could spin;
as if I could darn your bruised memory on the egg
of my bared skull

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Philadelphia, 1987, with daughter Jenny and son Jamie.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve worn braids in some of the happiest moments of my life, this about 25 years ago (we fed the orphaned baby robin cat food dipped in egg until it successfully fledged.) And then there are times when for efficiency’s sake my hair has been closely cropped. It’s taken seven years again now (since starting my new job in New Hampshire) to get back the braids. This poem appeared initially in English Journal and was included in an on-line chapbook, It’s dinner, and you’re in love with Genghis Khan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural
 New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals, including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

Hair Cutting
A (Mostly Unspoken) Conversation at a Salon on Newbury Street
by Mary Buchinger

Voice I

Sonje, the Albanian stylist, picks through my hair, deep in thought.
I tell her what I’ve heard all my life about my hair: fine, but lots of it.
She looks straight at me in the mirror, her face severe, No. Your hair
is coarse and wiry, almost all grey now, but, okay, you have a lot of it.
I never argue with a hair stylist. Handing her my Groupon
I say I need a cut that requires no work from me, just wash and go.
She says, No. Every woman must do more.
Snapping her fingers, Christina! Shampoo.

Dripping, I sip salon cappuccino as Sonje suggests lengths.
I say I’ve been told, I can’t do bangs. She replies, You can do anything.
I ask how old she was when she came from Albania. She stops cutting.
It was seven years ago, I wasn’t old, I wasn’t young. Hair can be trained.      You pull it,
she grabs a sheaf of my hair, makes a ponytail, it grows in the direction      you pull.
Every surface in this salon gleams black. On the other side, party      laughter
rings out, the kind of extravagant chatter that makes me feel so out of      place.
I tell Sonje my husband once had checked out every Boston library book
on Albania; so you know something about it, she says.

Your hair, she holds my eyes steady in the mirror, your hair will do      anything you want.
You have easy hair. I say, it must have been difficult to leave, there must      not be many
Albanians here. She says, Too many. Too, too many Albanians in Boston. I      want to tell her
about this novel I’d read, Enver Hoxha, the cruel dictator, conscripts a      dentist
who looks like him to act as his double; when the regime falls, the dentist      tries
to destroy his own face. I want to tell her I don’t have the will to train my      hair.
But she reaches for her brushes, switches on her blow dryer and      demonstrates,
shows off, even, the utter easiness of hair.

Voice II

                    She swoops in, frantic as a barn swallow
looking for a place to perch, rafters she can hide between,
these glossy walls confuse her, poor thing. She’s no regular,
a coupon client. I settle her with a cape and despair
over the nest of her hair.
                    She says, I’ve been told my hair is fine.
This? This wiry, coarse, grey mat! And then, she says,
I want a cut that requires nothing of me, looking at me as if
I can work miracles. Christina, I call out, a shampoo,
extra conditioner.

                    Back in the chair, she’s more concerned
about the cappuccino she was handed than what length
to cut her hair. She says, I’ve been told no bangs, I can’t do bangs.
Who told this sorry bird that story, she’s the type who collects
a nugget from one stylist, parrots it back to the next.
                                                            Now she asks me
where I’m from. I speak English with no accent and yet, she asks.
Okay, I’ll tell her the truth, no one knows anything anyway
about my country. But no, she picks at my Albania like it’s a fat,
juicy worm, cocks her pigeon head and asks how old I was,
as if this is something we should discuss. She presumes,
presumes so much.
                                        I show her hair is what you make it. Hair
is what you do. You are your hair. Her husband had an interest,
poor man, every book on Albania in Boston–probably a half-dozen
at most. The Burma of Europe, my forsaken country cut off,
swept away like hair.
                                                    Enough of her chirping. I will show her
what can be done. She wants easy, nothing is easier than hair. I tell her
one morning of attention can last days. She blinks her little sparrow eyes,
nods like a wren on a wire. I twirl her hair with my hollow brush,
lighten her matted wings.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Until I went to college, my mother cut my hair so I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable in salons. This poem came out of my feelings of discomfort in a fancy salon that I had a Groupon for and my interest in the stylist’s Albanian heritage.

Buchinger braid

Mary Buchinger
is the author of Aerialist (Gold Wake Press, 2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, Nimrod International, PANK, Salamander, Slice Magazine, Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. She was a featured reader at the Library of Congress and received New England Poetry Club’s Varoujan and Houghton Awards. She is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University, Boston, Massachusetts.

PHOTO: Walk/Ride Day Celebration at Magazine Beach Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts (July 2015). Photo Credit: Nathan Brescia

A study in red hair
by Penn Kemp

If it were juice, a light cranberry tinged with grape.
If wine, a sauterne, a bubbling rosé. If essential oil
neroli, the taste of tangerine. If scent, what the wind

carries from May blossoms, hawthorn and lilac, lily
of the valley intermingled, a confusion of delight
ripe and ready to turn from cinnamon to ash-grey.

A vibration beyond ultraviolet, where illusions of
colour shape to rainbow possibles glint between
memories, strawberry blonde aging well to white.

Auburn, chestnut, carrot, scarlet, flame. Hey, Red!

PHOTO: A recent photo of the author.

Photo Credit: Creighton Studios, Toronto.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem describes the colours my own mane has gone through, from infancy. My Grade Seven Teacher, Miss Morgan, told me decades later that she sat me in the window aisle so that the she could enjoy the sun shining on my hair. It was strawberry blond turning auburn then; it’s now turning grey. I like how the senses interpret colour as taste and scent in this poem, a kind of synaesthesia. No sound, though.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: London, Ontario, performance poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp is a Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets and their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. As Writer-in-Residence for Western University, her project was the DVD Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. Her latest works are two chapbooks for the Feminist Caucus Archives of the League of Canadian Poets: Performing Women and Women and Multimedia. Forthcoming is a new collection of poetry, Barbaric Cultural Practice as well as a play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris.

Beauty routine of coloring hair with natural henna.

Orange Is the New Black
by Rashmi Patel

I had my first white hair at the age of 21. I wrote in my journal:

“I can’t breathe. First white hair. God! I am going to die soon.”

I spent my twenties hiding from this definite messenger of death by coloring to dark brown or black whatever white strands I could see. Then at 27, a hairdresser in Singapore declared I had done a lousy job all these years. There was so much white I hadn’t covered. Worse, I had damaged my hair irreparably. He insisted on plucking every single white hair he could spot. There must have been at least a hundred.

“It’s painful. Stop,” I said meekly.

“The straightening would not look nice, la! And no time to colour. Sit. It pains less than waxing,” he said, laughing a hearty laugh.

That day I vowed to use only henna to color my hair from then on. Now, eight years later, my hair is all bright orange. Not everyone likes it. I get lots of hair advice:

“Have you tried putting coffee in the henna? Beetroot? Tea?”

“Try foam color, babe. It’s really easy.”

“You know, now it looks odd. I’ll take you to a good place.”

There is no way to convince some that I am in a good place. It took time but I have grown to like the process of hennaing my hair: the slow messiness of mixing earthy henna with oil, curd, lemon, and water, the smell and feel of the wet muddy mixture between my fingers, the soaking and waiting, the soothing feel on my scalp for hours and hours.

For now, orange feels more natural than brown or black.

PHOTO: “Applying henna” by Viki, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Hair is such an integral part of feminine identity. What inspired me to write this piece is how others react to a not-so-common choice. In a world where finding time for simple acts like breathing deep, praying, or calling loved ones needs fancy reminders and alarms, where haste-making is the norm, time-consuming traditional methods of enhancing physical beauty have stopped appealing to women. But these options are very much available. I also wanted to say to people who look at hennaed hair with disgust, embarrassment, or discomfort: it’s really ok.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rashmi Patel has published her writing in Femina, Mint, and Times of India. She draws, paints, quilts, and spends her time connecting and creating new worlds in words, lines, colours, and textures. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. You can find her work on at @rashmi_patel2005.

The Sixties Are Over, Sara
by Sara Clancy

my neighbor, the hair stylist
teased, with a flick at the strand
tucked in the hip pocket of my Levis.

You’re, what, 40 now? Long is not
a good look. A little layering and highlights,
maybe fringe. We’ll take off ten years.

In her home salon we laughed that now
I looked like Laura Bush, The Doors blasting
“Break on Through” from her son’s room.

PHOTO: The author before the haircut.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sara Clancy is a Philadelphia transplant to the Desert Southwest. She is an Associate Editor for Poetry at Kentucky Review and, among other places, her poems have appeared in The Linnet’s WingsThe Avatar Review, Crab Creek Review, The Madison Review, The Smoking Poet, RE-VERSE, Verse Wisconsin, Main Street Rag, Antiphon, Turtle Island Quarterly, Antiphon and Houseboat, where she was a featured poet. Twenty years ago she had very long hair.

PHOTO: The author after the haircut.

Sweeney Todd
by Finola Scott

Tell me again, how long
are your holidays? Eyes narrowed
the top stylist binds me in neon plastic.
You teachers don’t know how lucky you are. 

Cloaked, I’m gagged. He’s wielding scissors
so I smile. Water trickles between cape and skin.
You want short? Easy to manage at the beach?
Again I smile, desperate to please.

The sharp teeth of his steel comb bite
my raw scalp. I flinch. Is there a problem?
My face sore from grinning, I shake
my head. Cocks crow.

Following orders, I remove earrings, glasses.
In the mirror, I make out fuzzy balletic moves,
hear helicopter blades chop and crop.
Wet hair rains, the floor’s matted bristles.

Matador, he flourishes away my cape. I sense
an open mouthed audience. Sight restored,
I don’t recognise the prison-shorn head facing me.
Short enough? he smirks.

PHOTO: Johnny Depp as the title character in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This writing prompt made me remember the spiteful treatment at a top hairdresser’s hands. I tried to capture the vulnerability we feel when we are forced to trust others’ expertise. The poem hinges on the fact  that the hairdresser, faced with a hot summer of nonstop work, is envious of the teacher, who is at the start of  a seven-week vacation. In the Grimms’ fairytale, the golden-haired Rapunzel is imprisoned in a high tower, but she is able to unbraid her hair and lower it down to the ground to allow her capturer, a wicked witch, to climb up. A prince wandering in the forest sees this and soon Rapunzel is letting her hair down so he can come up too !  Her long hair gave her freedom and power.  When her hair actions are discovered by the witch, her hair is cut off is cut off she is banished & defenceless. My sense of self was destroyed when my hair was brutally shorn. I was defenceless against the stylist’s attack. I was not free be my relaxed self and socialise in bars, clubs, and beaches. Instead, I was banished for the summer to lonely beaches and walks on empty moors. Men looked askance at me, and I was a social outcast. I feel we are all at the mercy of hairdressers who can be kind fairy godmothers transforming us into beauties or wicked witches destroying our lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Finola Scott‘s poetry and short stories are widely published. Now retired, she enjoys the lively literary scene in Glasgow, Scotland, where she is proud to be a slam-winning granny. She is currently being mentored on the Clydebuilt Scheme by Makar Liz Lochead.

Kind in Kostm Prinzessin setzt Krone auf
by Susana H. Case

How I get a second ride: A carnival truck
wheels down my tree-lined street,
jack-in-the-box jingle
floating out, one free ticket for every child.
I line up for the rotating carts,
have my speed and whirl.
Then I race to Lizzie’s house, cover my short
hair with the breast-length blond
locks from her talking doll.
The glue that seals the plastic hair
to the rubber scalp has long ago dried out.
Wig askew, my brown bangs showing,
I exchange my blue corduroy knickers
for Lizzie’s pink ruffled dress, because
here’s what I think makes a little girl:
long blond curls, a frilly frock,
and what I already have—bee-stung red lips

and nerve. I take my new place in line.
Haven’t I seen you here before?
The ticket man takes a closer look.
That’s the beginning of a lifetime
of getting asked that same question.
No. I smile, gap-toothed,
already knowing to look him in the eye.

PHOTO:  “Girl in princess costume” by Dan Race, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Nerve” is one of what I call my “Lizzie” poems, based upon true-life experiences with the girl who was my best friend in childhood. I’ve tried to find her from time to time as an adult, but have never been successful in that.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case’s newest book is 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014). Author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks, including The Scottish Café which was re-released in a Polish-English version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Opole University Press, she is a Professor at the New York Institute of Technology.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: After my naturally brown hair started turning gray, I became a redhead and never looked back. The photo was taken sometime last year, in New York City, on the High Line.