When he asks why, I say because I’m out of money.
& because I know there’s a shoebox in the garage
with a pair of clippers inside that Santa brought him
that he hasn’t used since we were kids.

My parents couldn’t afford haircuts for four of us
so my dad learned how to do it.
We’d sit outside in a row of lawn chairs
& he’d move down the line,

buzz my brothers’ heads with a #2,
wet our hair before trimming mine & my sister’s bangs
straight across, so slowly, so carefully, that no one would know
we were getting backyard haircuts from our dad.

When he finished, he’d gather up our hair
& spread it in his garden to keep deer away from his tomatoes.
I’m no longer ashamed of being poor,  late twenties,
still in school, never had a job that paid much

more than minimum wage. So when I imagine my dad
agrees to shave my head, which I have to do
because he is ashamed of how his oldest daughter
looks like a third son, what I mean is I can remember

the love inside my father but can’t see it. When I was a kid
we tossed baseball, built birdhouses he hung in the trees.
In elementary school, a friend asked me if I had a mom.
So when I imagine he agrees to shave my head

he doesn’t ask me if it’s a lesbian thing,
doesn’t tell me what is “natural,” how I should be
sorry. Instead, he understands this haircut
from an economic perspective—a buzz will look good

for months, even after it’s grown out, which means
fewer minutes spent in Great Clips, fewer dollars spent
on what he can do himself. & this is okay with me.
He is a businessman, after all.

Image credit:Tamara Bellis

Lisa Summe was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, earned a BA and MA in literature at the University of Cincinnati, and an MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech. Her poems have appeared in Juked, bedfellows, Waxwing, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. Her first book, Say It Hurts, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in June 2020. You can find her running, playing baseball, or eating vegan pastries in Pittsburgh, PA and on Instagram and Twitter @lisasumme.