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.
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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 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.