Girl by featured artist Lora Mathis

      The scientific method

      1. formulate a question

      i know the hum of clippers carefully
      pirouetting around my ears. does this make you
      thirteen-year-old girl entering womanhood
      hairless in the wrong places? what are
      the right places?

      2. make a hypothesis

      i barely remember the color
      of the hair underneath my arms, i think
      it was light brown, i think
      it was soft – i do remember the lather of soap
      my mom holding steady a bright yellow razor
      demonstrating the slow, drawn strokes
      the tingling nakedness
      the hairs dancing around the drain, collecting
      near my toes. i remember happiness
      rolling in my gut uncertain and maybe
      not even mine.

      3. predict

      there are only certain places
      they want us to be peach-fuzz fine or
      even sometimes glass-smooth
      fragile infantile bare:
      underarms, legs, upper lip, mons pubis –

      the bright blood on my knees
      soft pink itching all over
      rough rash where my thighs touch –

      anywhere something dark might grow.

      this, they tell us, is how to be a lady.
      if you try it any other way you
      are wrong.

      4. conduct tests of your hypotheses

      taking my shirt off for the first time my
      boyfriend asks about my shaved underarms –
      don’t they chafe, does the sweat feel slimy
      why do i do that?
      i don’t have an answer.
      he also tells me to keep
      growing my hair longer whenever
      i mention a haircut
      i don’t make any promises.
      sometimes summers get too hot and

      everyone always liked to touch the
      new of buzzed hair, right
      at the nape of my neck.

      in bed falling asleep to january wind clawing
      at the window, new man beside me
      clutching me close
      his cheek scratching at my face, says surprised
      you need to
      shave your legs

      and the anger i feel is new.
      three-day-tall barely-hairs
      sleep on my shins and touch the gentle of his legs
      i can’t articulate the question caught under my tongue about
      how he can even feel them through all of his own?
      or why he thinks i should let him stay?

      at the drugstore supermarket restaurant
      many people mistook me
      for a boy.
      i knew my woman, though.

      5. analyze

      the number of commercials i have seen about
      shaving gel razors waxes bare
      bodies slick and seamless:

      the number of boys who wanted me hairless
      in the right places:

      the number of boys who wanted all my hair:

      the number of boys who liked my hair short:
                            at least 5

      the number of times i have asked myself why i am spending money
      on something that hurts and bleeds and inflames:

      the number of times i have shaved my scalp:

      the number of times my sexual orientation has been questioned
      with reference to my hair as
      definitive proof:
                            23, to my face

      the number of times my upper lip has been threaded clean:

      the number of times i worried about hair on my feet:

      the number of times i have heard the phrase
      “clean up your eyebrows”:

      the number of times i have wanted anyone else to decide
      anything about my body:

      6. conclude

      i remember the embarrassment of
      sticky new-adolescent sweat collecting
      in the fuzz underneath my arms while i waited
      in front of the movie theater. i was worried
      someone would see and ask
      why that was still there.

      the gap between pants and shoes began to reveal
      brown hair on winter pale legs
      made girls stare and even vida had started waxing
      a space between her dark eyebrows, so
      i learned.

      i am often too tired to contort my body
      so the back of my knee faces my ready wrist
      like a throat bared and turquoise veined.

      i like the way my hair grew back in knotted curls
      i like the way my hair was rabbit fur short
      i like              my hair.


Clair Dunlap

I grew up just outside of Seattle where I started writing poems at the age of six. I still write poems and I still can’t ride a bike, probably because I’ve been spending my time writing so many poems. My work has previously been published in Germ Magazine, BLIND GLASS, and The Quarry. When I’m not writing, I’m doing pilates, laughing, or making things happen as president of the Poetry House at St. Olaf College. (