Ordinary Heartbreak by David Levine

She climbs easily on the box

That seats her above the swival chair at adult height

Crosses her legs, left ankle over right

Smooths the plastic apron over her lap

While the beautician lifts her pony tail and laughs, 

"This is coarse as a horse's tail"


And then, as if that's all there is to say

The woman, at once, whacks off and tosses 

Its foot and a half into the trash


And the little girl, who didn't want her hair cut

But long ago learned successfully

How not to say what it is she wants


Who, even in this minute,

Cannot quite grasp her shock and grief

Is getting her hair cut

"For convenience," Her mother put it


The long waves gone

That had been evidence at night

When loosened from their clasp

She might be secretly a princess


Rather than cry out

She grips her own wrist

And looks to her mother in the mirror

But her mother is too polite

Or too reserved or too indifferent

To defend the girl


So the girl, herself, takes up indifference

While the pain follows a channel

To a hidden place

Almost unknown to her

Convinced, as she is,

That her own emotions are

Not the ones her life depends on


She shifts her gaze from her mother's face

Back to the haircut, so steadily

As if this short-haired child she sees

Were someone else