the ugly earring

ug‧ly [uhg-lee] offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance

love mugs

Billy Al Bengston, cups, 1957 via an ambitious project collapsing


of brown and silver

She pays attention to the hair, not her fingers, and cuts herself
once or twice a day.   Doesn’t notice anymore, just if the blood
starts flowing.   Says, Excuse me, to the customer and walks away
for a band-aid.   Same spot on the middle finger over and over,
raised like a callus.   Also the nicks where she snips between
her fingers, the torn webbing.   Also spider veins on her legs now,
so ugly, though she sits in a chair for half of each cut, rolls around
from side to side.   At night in the winter she sleeps in white
cotton gloves, Neosporin on the cuts, vitamin E, then heavy
lotion.   All night, for weeks, her white hands lie clothed like
those of a young girl going to her first party.   Sleeping alone,
she opens and closes her long scissors and the hair falls under
her hands.   It’s a good living, kind of like an undertaker,
the people keep coming, and the hair, shoulder length, French
twist, braids.   Someone has to cut it.   At the end she whisks
and talcums my neck.   Only then can I bend and see my hair,
how it covers the floor, curls and clippings of brown and silver,
how it shines like a field of scythed hay beneath my feet.

poem: cutting hair by minnie bruce pratt
image: from the kumpfs family archive