When I Look Like My Father It Makes My Mother Cry

When I Look Like My Father It Makes My Mother Cry

By Lorraine Rice


I give up on wrestling my hair

into a limp, submissive, dead-straight

existence, tell my mother—Just

cut it all off, trying to get back

to the beginning, in the straight-backed chair

waiting for my mother

who’d been the one to fix my hair, wanting

her to see it never was

broken. Feet bare, sweat-stuck

to newspaper spread under the chair—

how many times, how

many, have I watched her cut

my father’s hair? Him

in the same chair, a frayed

towel-cape over shoulders and chest,

his ankles an X on the spot where

Dagwood blows his top over

Blondie’s new hat. Her over him,

cheeks caved in, brow ridged, the concentration

of years on her face, sharp

metal shears in hand. My parents always uneasy

sharing space and seeing them

close is bewitching and bewildering—

their fragile intimacy severed

by the cold crisp chastisement of scissors

as my hair falls in black puffy clouds. Confused

coils, soft and intricate, beg to be caught

again and again and holding them

begs a reckoning—Me?

Not me? In the straight-backed chair

while my mother cuts my hair, in the full bloom

heat of summer she freezes

then puts a mirror in my hand—

You look just like your father,

and because her eyes are damp

for once, I do not argue.


Lorraine Rice holds an MFA from the The Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College, NY. Her work has appeared on Literary Mama and in the anthology Who’s Your Mama: The Unsung Voices of Women and Mothers (Soft Skull Press, 2009). She lives in Philadelphia with her family.