Laura Grace Weldon
You Get Me?
Between two vacant stores is a cheap salon
where I can afford to leave a good tip.
Today someone named Doreen cuts my hair,
chittering about long lines at Walmart
and her annoying rich sister,
repeatedly pausing her patter with
an arms-up scissor-loaded
“You get me?”
in our shared mirror
waiting till I murmur a response.
She says she bought her grandson
a marked-down Black Panther™ t-shirt
he’s not allowed to wear.
She waits for my “why?”
Answers, “because his father is a racist.”
Despite blades in her hands,
I shake my head, say,
“Sorry to hear that.”
Say, “It’s a shame those attitudes
are raising another generation.”
She pays me no mind.
“Nothing to worry about,
his dad doesn’t say anything
to the kids. My ex was a racist too,
my girls never knew.”
At her “you get me?”
I do not. Say,
“Guess a racist dad made an impact
if she married another racist.”
She talks on, impervious,
and when released from the plastic cape
I stand with hair no worse than usual,
fight with myself
over Doreen’s tip, but leave
the best I can and hope
she’s doing the best she can
arms aloft there in the small square
allotted her by Famous Hair.
Seventh Grade Sex Ed
We sat in a circle of chairs, no desks
to shelter our legs or support our arms.
No pencils to rattle, no books to drop.
Miss Zimmer passed out file cards,
a word we must define written on each.
Trapped, we watched classmates turn
over cards reading
kiss fondle petting arouse
penis vagina intercourse
Our bodies re-made maps
in a room hot, humid, wrong.
None of us exchanged glances.
Some boys joked, were corrected.
Some girls whispered, were chastised.
My card read nipple.
I could barely say it
aloud, insisted I didn’t
know what it meant.
Miss Zimmer scowled the way she did
when she made every girl shower naked
the second day of gym class,
watching to ensure we complied.
The way she scowled when she made
every girl stand in her underwear,
pose front and side for Polaroids
she said were for our
“before and after” folders.
We were 12 or 13 and ashamed,
already aware our bodies weren’t
perfect like those in magazines or on TV.
Ashamed to change into clingy
baby blue gym uniforms when
boys could wear t-shirts and shorts.
Ashamed at what boys said about us,
some of them calling out words
worse than those we wouldn’t define.
We never saw those folders
or our pictures. It’s still
difficult to say what we mean.
Laura Grace Weldon lives on a small ramshackle farm where she works as a book editor, teaches writing workshops, and maxes out her library card each week. Laura served as Ohio’s 2019 Poet of the Year and is the author of four books.