When I say I’m afraid of going bald what I mean is
I’m such a man that I cannot see myself
without a crown. One that grows so heavy and black
from my hungry scalp that it appears natural
while it still can be. I haven’t unlearned this tangled, shrinking
mess because I abandoned my mother’s body with a full head
of it, dripping wet with a woman’s effort and this is
maybe how it all began— me the suckling, small body
and her the unrelenting give. Her the hands that combed
and braided the hair extra tight so that I could never get loose
like my father. And still, all that work negated by the trembling laughter
of the schoolboys looking at my girlish and unending hair, and by girlish
I mean made prey to a man’s cowardice. My mother cried
when I said I wanted to cut the parts that made me
resemble her, and still she held the scissors to the impossible
forest of my hair and that was the day that I chose running, like
my father, though I think he too is bald now so perhaps all the men
I know are losing something. And now I am beginning to look
like every man I want to forget by receding into the cold safety
of all this manhood. I feel the hairless, empty spot on top of my scalp
and imagine the many ways to hide myself. The best way is perhaps
to never lower my head to anyone smaller than I am. A woman says
it is unfair that men become more attractive as they age and I agree.
Though that just means that men of all ages consume
until they are satisfied and my mother says that the one thing
my father and I had in common is our appetites. But he left
and took everything except the old shoebox my mother keeps
my severed boy braids in, how she still saves every part of me
while she waits for me to come home for dinner.
My mother tells me my father was a gorilla
Twice a year, my mother takes me
to see him locked up in a cage
at the Philadelphia Zoo. Which one
is he? I ask. The black one.
He seems skittish, my father. Always looking
over his shoulder for something.
He beats on the other gorillas but they stay
locked up together so it must be love.
Does he know my name? I ask. He don’t
speak, silly. That’s why he don’t call neither.
Oh. My father runs around his cage like it belongs
to him. He don’t see nothing else but he seem happy.
He shits on the floor and I laugh and want to be him.
I bang my chest like I got something to be proud of.
I roar a full mouth of baby teeth.
I sound too old. I break what I love. I leave when
I want. I shit my pants cuz I’m too young
to do the laundry. The whole jungle will be my cage
and I will own each bar. I have my mother’s lonely.
I have my father’s restless. I believe my mother when
she says he’s a gorilla. It’s a simpler answer.
When I look too much like him, mom says,
Cut that out. It’s time to go home.
We got things to take care of.
My father looks out his cage at me for just a second.
I will remember him this way. Animal, and so close
I could almost be him.
Dave Harris is a spoken word poet and playwright from West Philly. As a playwright, his plays have been featured at Philadelphia Young Playwrights, New Haven Arts and Humanities Co-Op High School, Yale Playwrights Festival, the Annual Festival of New Work, UMASS Amherst and the Yale Repertory Theater. As a poet, his work has been published in The Huffington Post, Button Poetry, Upworthy, The Root, The New Journal, Blueshift Journal and The Misanthropy amongst others. He loves all his mothers.
Shell Myers was born in Elyria, Ohio, but now calls Philadelphia their home. They are a queer multimedia artist, voted most artistic in the 8th grade. They are passionate about emotional sensitivity, play, and subverting toxic masculinity. Shell is the Administrative Coordinator of Art & Art History at Drexel University. When they're not putting in that 9 to 5, they make time to create collages, paintings, photographs and drawings. You can find more of their work at www.shellmyers.com