POEM XXII: “DYE JOB”

I went from brunette to blonde
it felt like my head was a signal flare

and I had just torn away the paper wrapping
and lit the fuse.

Every male gaze caught and lingered
like a spark in tinder
A girl shrieked at me in the parking lot: “I love your hair!”
And I understood why my grandmother
never went back.

She was a blonde for as long as I knew her
though everyone else in the family had thick, kinky Jewish hair.

As a child, I didn’t realize the color came from a bottle.

I thought she was a genetic miracle,
one of the few who could have passed.

I wanted to grab that icy beauty by the throat
steal its power for my own,
wield it against those who would not have me,
which was: everybody.

Jews, upon hearing of my Catholic mother, would tell me
“Oh, you’re not really a Jew”.
I was not really a Jew because I did not speak Yiddish
Not really a Jew because I did not keep kosher,
Once,
not really a Jew because I had not read Phillip Roth.

Christians told me
their God would (lovingly) incinerate me,
in just and kingly recompense
for my failure to worship His fair-haired son.

So I deemed myself a Jew
and dyed my hair
the color of a Nazi recruitment poster
the better to spite them both.

Now, I look in the mirror and I see: me.

Through artifice, I have achieved
truth to my interior self.

A Jew behind an Aryan mask,
an outsider to my own
an even falser face to the enemy.

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