Judith Arcana

Poem About More Than One Thing

Like a fourteen-year-old boy
I’ve got a beard coming in
hair by hair, black and white –
while just above, at the corners
of my mouth, inside delicate new
guidelines threading nose to chin
my mustache is lengthening –
darkening, curling. Soon enough
I’ll become a pirate, and sail away.

At the same time, hair’s disappearing.
What’s that all about? Martha says
I miss my bush! Julene says, I had hair
under my arms, like a normal person
One day I reached up and – nothing!
Francie says, I have maybe six hairs
on each leg, scraggly now. Before
there were waves, like moss on a rock
at high tide – oh, it was lovely!

I know you’re thinking of women
who don’t talk about hair like Martha
Julene and Francie, women who pay
cash money to get their hair plucked
shaved, scratched away, burned off.
I know. This poem isn’t about them.
They’re in other poems – I’m pretty
sure about that. This is about the ones
who want to be real – and sail away.


Judith Arcana writes poems, stories, essays and books — and hosts a monthly poetry show on KBOO Community Radio in Oregon. Her poetry collection Announcements from the Planetarium was published in 2017; new editions of 4th Period English, her chapbook of poems in the voices of high school students talking about immigration, and Grace Paley’s Life Stories, her biography of Grace Paley, came out in 2018.

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