by Karen Schubert
Have you ever had a haircut so bad you cried?
—Matthew Yeager, from “A Jar of Balloons or the Uncooked Rice”
Haircuts were $13 at the beauty school—hand massage and facial included.
The thing it cost was time. I don’t mean the frocked students at the end
of their program, lipsticked and cheery, applying to salons around the city,
gripping shears and looking at me in the mirror. They spoke in code to the teachers,
13 round and graduation, which probably meant resistant to blow dryers, and no neck.
I loved their ideas for cuts, wished I could tip. The new ones shook
when they came out, tiny pandas on each purple fingernail, pics of toddlers
stuck into the mirror’s edge, chatting me up. Are you from Cleveland? Do you have
any kids? Then eyes-all-in, spritzing, pulling strands taut, rushing off for the instructor.
Once I was there three hours. I used to tell my kids the hard thing about life is
we have to practice on real people. Once the day before picture day, my mom
Scotch-taped my bangs to my forehead and edged along the sticky guideline
with sewing scissors. Did your mom cut your hair? my teachers teased.
We were broke. Today women tell me I am brave to let my hair go gray.
Aren’t they afraid of chemicals on their heads? And I like being older.
A few years back my friend Sue and I thought we’d grow our hair long.
Midlife crisis, our stylist friend muttered, and worked with us but I gave up.
I wanted curly hair once, too, but the perm made orange fuzz, too late to bring home
a sweet Black Power pick from Cedar Point where I worked one summer on the Matterhorn
and Super Himalaya. Our rides weren’t fast, didn’t shake coins out of people like
the Ring of Fire at the fair that holds screamers upsidedown until money
spins down through the lights. Our rides tipped them back, and we harvested
giant combs of the late ’70s by the garbage bag full. When we found a camera,
we took shots of each other before turning it in. Maybe you have a picture
of me, so tan from that summer, my hair short and sun-streaked. I never had a haircut
at the beauty school that made me cry, but once, years before, my friend laughed
when I came through the door. He thought I’d messed it up
on the porch. He thought it was a joke.
by Karen Schubert
Come summer vacation our mother
washes clothes until midnight
packs us into the car in pajamas
drives three hours to Ohio
where no one is drinking gin
where the candy in the dish
is not for us and we climb
the cupboard for windmill cookies
we climb the white pine
and the apple tree my uncle
fell from and broke his arm
we return to the house crying
with burrs in our feet with glass
with stingers of bees
urushiol of poison ivy
we catch baby brown snakes,
leopard frogs, barn kittens
we climb the tractor and hay bales
saddle the horses ride to the lake
we gallop the field that later
becomes a model plane park
we climb the attic stairs
watch for wasps drive the toy
car dash with its wipers and
motor noise we put on dusty hats
and shoes from the attic chest
we don’t take baths unless
someone tells us to
the horse steps on my foot
too dirty to see the damage
we watch the 4th fireworks
from a window we watch
bats swirl we watch
lightning from our camping tent
on the silo base until Papa
runs out to bring us in
our mother returns to Buffalo
without us and Nana tires
of the animals in us
we call her nanny
we wonder if our parents will divorce
we want to go home but not there
by Karen Schubert
I chew tar roofing tiles that fall in the road
all summer in the cul-de-sac—
like thick licorice, blackening my spit.
I hate stepping in the stink
and stick of hot asphalt in bare feet. We move through
the landscape like weather, inconsiderate.
One day I cut through the back yards,
head down and deep in the day’s thoughts,
feel something under my feet and realize
someone is saying, Stop! Stop!
I just poured that concrete. I am three steps
in it, freeze, then Go back! Go back!
my footprints double, then gray on the grass.
Behind the corner store, a hill of topsoil
is eaten in chunks off one side by earthmovers
we never see. We push our bikes,
wagons, boxes to the top and hurl
ourselves off the scraggy precipice,
holding our elbows out to stay above
the bruising bike seat, banging down
the boulder clods, screaming like movie
villains, or skidding down sideways,
we spit-wipe the blood, find the pocket coins,
head back up.
Karen Schubert’s recent chapbooks are Black Sand Beach from
Kattywompus Press and I Left My Wings on a Chair from Kent
State Press. I Left My Wings on a Chair was selected by
Kathleen Flenniken for a Wick Poetry Center Chapbook Prize.
Schubert’s poems and interviews have appeared in Diode,
Waccamaw, PoetsArtists, and The Louisville Review, and her
poem “Autobiography” was selected by Tony Hoagland for the
William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest. Schubert, who was
a 2017 artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center, is a
founding director of Lit Youngstown. This set of poems is part of
a project centered around childhood in the late 1960s, in the new
American landscape of transient suburbia.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 12, Number 1
Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors