Girls with Moustaches
Who can say what happens when two girls fall
into giggles? Never mind that one is not quite five,
while the other has just turned sixty or that the younger kneels
in the other’s lap, blue eyes to blue eyes, wrinkles to
not a blemish. The sound of forks, of chairs scraping the floor,
of meat being cut do not enter into it. They are in a cocoon
of purpose. Each drapes a lock of hair, golden or sable,
across a curled upper lip—like a scarf hanging on a coat hook.
Then it’s time to compare facial hair, Fu Manchu-ian in nature,
looking fierce as marauders, until both are conquered by laughter.
“I Wish My Dad Had Hair”
—Miles, age 8
Instead of a landing strip for birds,
an upended bowl, a honeydew husk,
a desert globe without so much as a wave
to cast a ship on.
If my dad had hair,
I could buy him a comb
or tin of pomade
to let him know I love him.
I wish my dad had hair
so his head wouldn’t seem
so lonely up there.
It makes me want to cry,
how naked it is—
like a baby bird without feathers,
a rock swept clean by a river,
a sightless eye with no lid.
It’s embarrassing, all that skin.
Did you know,
even a bald eagle
isn’t actually bald?
If only my dad had hair,
I wouldn’t be reminded of skulls
every day at breakfast
and of when people get dead.
All the years of my childhood,
I’d stand between my young mother
and the shelves of 1921 Encyclopædia Britannicas,
the moldering National Geographics,
behind the rocking recliner
with its wildly floral cover,
stand above the little bald spot
at the dead end of the sagittal suture—
where the Taymyr Peninsula would be
if her forehead were Canada,
her eyebrows the U.S. border.
A nickel of nearly hairless flesh
marked the cyst she’d had as a baby,
scorched away with dry ice.
All the way home in the buggy
she’d scream, my grandmother loved to say,
affronted by the incivility of that din.
But in the dimly lit living room
of my grade-school years,
I only remember the quiet
as I’d stand there,
above that smooth ring of flesh,
white as a full moon
in the dark heaven of her hair,
and pluck away the stray grays
to keep her youthful.
Only now is it clear,
nearly two score years
after losing her,
that of all the silver straws
I drew, every one of them
was the short one.
From the coke and sulfur dust of the steel mills’ twisted shadow she rose—
my mother not by kin but by kinesthetics—
and to dust and ash she wished to return,
a dervish of devil-may-care,
to let the wind take her,
to let the rain take her,
to let the soil take her,
to let happenstance take her by its own surprise.
To fly like a tufted seed, soap bubble, charismatic whim,
to flutter like a lost phone number on its papery berth,
to be untethered, unplaced, not known in every feature—
such a cunning lack of design!—that
was her lifelong dream of death.
Yet I can tell you where she lies still.
For I was one of them that took a shovel
when no hole was there beside the gravestone.
For I was one of them that waited for the deacon
to arrive at the appointed time.
For I was one of them that stood beside the marker
as we made our own service for the absent cleric,
that stood beside the unblinking oculus,
made her urn the iris of that earth-black eye.
For I was one of them. I was one of them.
Yvonne Zipter is the author of the chapbook Like Some Bookie God and the full-length collection The Patience of Metal. Her poems have appeared in numerous periodicals over the years, including Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, Metronome of Aptekarsky Ostrov (Russia), Bellingham Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review, as well as in several anthologies. She is also the author of two nonfiction books: Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend and Ransacking the Closet. She is a 1995 inductee to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
You can find more of her poetry below, and also a link to her nonfiction about dogs. Look for her here again at Escape Into Life in our Mother’s Day feature and during the Dog Days of 2014!
Yvonne Zipter at The Bark
Author photo credit: Kathy Forde