Bridget Bell


Everyone is a liberal when they are young.
-- My mother

This said around the same time I asked Eric to shave my head.
We decided to leave nothing but a patch,

an inch long sprout dyed bright red like a rose
pushing out from my brain. I did it for shock.

Because it was the opposite of what I was supposed to do.
Visual deviation. After this I experienced two keen sensations:

a cool closeness I’d never felt when water slipped over my scalp
and the wind on my head’s virgin nerve endings.

It bothered me that I hadn’t experienced such simple rawness before.
The reactions varied:

acquaintances asked my close friends, Is she depressed?
My grandmother cried.

Eric wanted to take androgynous nude photos of me. I let him.
My grandfather said he understood. He liked to keep his hair short too,

especially in all this hot weather.
My mother shook her head.

I like old photos of her, the straight lines of blond hair
yearning well past her shoulders into the middle of her tanned back.

I see her, younger than I am now, on the anniversary of Kent State, marching,
how she said she made eye contact with a national guard. He was young.

She could see a heavy weight of fear carried on his face,
eyes peeking out from behind riot gear,

like an underwater mammal
lifting out of the sea just enough to still be able to breathe.

I imagine my own dark hair, unwinding wildly from my head,
the way I would have worn it to deviate in that time,

the way I surely would have walked beside her, our thoughts in line,
like the soldiers. Iraq started around the same time I shaved my head.

I bought a pink t-shirt printed with a picture of Bush.
It read: Not my president!

My mom asked: Who is your president, then?
As it rolled on, my friends and I sprawled ourselves

on concrete to represent the fallen. It took hours
to read a complete list of the dead, the now mute syllables

forming on our lips. Someone’s name and then a breath
and then another name.

My fear is that what my mother said about liberalism and youth
is truth. It seems so long since I lowered my back onto that sidewalk

with my face turned up to the sun. I don’t protest anymore.
I’m still liberal but I’m tired

of all these drawn out fights.
What I’d like best is to reverse, believe I can change things

by buzzing my scalp, be born when she was young,
weave her long hair into braids,

like sturdy ropes we might use
to pull ourselves back up.


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