She climbs easily on the box
That seats her above the swival chair at adult height
Crosses her legs, left ankle over right
Smooths the plastic apron over her lap
While the beautician lifts her pony tail and laughs,
“This is coarse as a horse’s tail”

And then, as if that’s all there is to say
The woman, at once, whacks off and tosses
Its foot and a half into the trash

And the little girl, who didn’t want her hair cut
But long ago learned successfully
How not to say what it is she wants

Who, even in this minute,
Cannot quite grasp her shock and grief
Is getting her hair cut
“For convenience,” Her mother put it

The long waves gone
That had been evidence at night
When loosened from their clasp
She might be secretly a princess

Rather than cry out
She grips her own wrist
And looks to her mother in the mirror
But her mother is too polite
Or too reserved or too indifferent
To defend the girl

So the girl, herself, takes up indifference
While the pain follows a channel
To a hidden place
Almost unknown to her
Convinced, as she is,
That her own emotions are
Not the ones her life depends on

She shifts her gaze from her mother’s face
Back to the haircut, so steadily
As if this short-haired child she sees
Were someone else