Cutting Hair

By Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946 Minnie Bruce Pratt
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 copyright ©2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Reprinted from “The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems,” University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003, by permission of the publisher.

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Poet Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Disappointment & Failure, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Minnie Bruce  Pratt


Minnie Bruce Pratt is recognized as an eminent poet in the United States. In addition to receiving acclaim for her verse, Pratt is acknowledged as an essayist, activist, lesbian-feminist, and educator. By chronicling her existence in poetry and prose, Pratt has explored themes reflecting the particularities of her life. She has surveyed her Southern, middle-class upbringing, her ten-year marriage and strained divorce, her battle . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Disappointment & Failure, Relationships, Men & Women, Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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