Two Poems by Dana Alsamsam

Hair Cut

Your mom was the kind of person

who forgot the leftovers on the stove—

she didn’t even flinch opening the door,

my hands twist-tangled in your long, girl

hair, your striped, Target t-shirt crumpled

beside us on the floor—a small monument

to matching bodies, to holding pinkies

in school halls, to me: queer homecoming queen

royalty. You wore slacks, a terrified grin

and slouching ruffle socks as we walked

in a fluorescent gymnasium—hypervisible—a sea

of eyeballs shaping us. That day after school,

your mom sang along to the Fun Home songs

we liked, our worlds steeped in the freedom

of Bechdel. I galloped the thirty seconds

to my house, told my mom The Plan—cut

my hair short, take the Girl with Beautiful

Long Red Hair and slice her into tiny bits

to scatter, fit better with another girl.

My mom is not like yours.

My mom said, “do you want to look

like a dyke?” and laughed like jingle bells

rolling around on the oakwood floors,

tripping me, making my ears ring.


For Debbie Morissey McHale, 1951-2016

My Great Aunt Debbie leads

my older sister and me up a path

on the Rocky Mountains.

She is our magical adventure guide

from Loveland, hard gardening

hands of Larimer Park.

I watch her legs like oak tree stumps,

her strength like a horse

pulsing through her calves.

I have never seen a beautiful woman

with such sturdy legs.

My ears pop and Debbie

gives me spearmint gum.

She knows the mountains.

My dad is on the phone,

my mother stays in the car.

We laugh, we race, we turn

our small red faces up

to the peaks capped with white.

Our legs tire, our shoes are too weak

but we bask in the geography

of Grandma’s sister like girls

discovering the word “woman”

has different definitions—

not mother or sister,

dainty or delicate or dancer

or dreamer, not silent or obedient,

not product of father.

She contained sapwood and oak,

with maps grafted to her soul

and guidebooks in her eyes.

The higher we climbed

the further we were from what we knew.

She picked me up in one easy swipe

to show me what she could see.

Dana (she/her) is a queer, Syrian-American poet from Chicago who is currently an MFA candidate at Emerson College in Boston. She is the assistant poetry editor at Redivider and senior editorial assistant at Ploughshares. Dana's poems are published or forthcoming in Hooligan Mag, After Hours Chicago, L'Ephemere Review, Daphne Mag, Blood Orange Review, Bad Pony Mag and others. She recently won third prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2017. Twitter & Instagram @DanaAlsamsam

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