Things Only My Hairdresser Knows
By: Katy Shedlock
It seems that Russia will invade Ukraine
and so I feel I should get my hair cut
sit in Anastasia's chair at the cheap unisex salon
on Hamilton and Indiana
and ask her what she thinks.
For years now I've sat
under her shears in twenty-dollar,
as she tells me about her church
the big Anabaptist one downtown
and her kids, especially her son, Sasha,
who says to the Kindergarten teacher
after his mother leaves
"My name is Alex."
Later when I walk the dog and hear
fragments of Russian from roofers atop
the old houses in my neighborhood
I wonder if her husband is up there,
the conversational phrases I used to know
sliding like broken shingles
to the ground.
I tell her about the years I lived
on the other side of that enormous dead country
teaching English and seeing CCCP
faintly through the whitewash
on the gray brick walls.
My Peace Corps haircuts were all so stressful.
I ended up with mullets and one disaster
my fellow Americans called the Hillary Clinton.
There are so many words, but only one gesture
to describe what can be done with scissors and hair.
In my second year I got head lice from the village bath house
and sat on the creaking train through the steppe for two days
so that Brit and Megan could cut it all off
wash it in chemical shampoo
and slowly comb out the dead bugs.
I needed friends who knew me,
who gently removed the shame
by telling me funny stories
about Florida and Texas.
In my hometown I drive east down Boone Avenue
my little car rattled by winter's pits and potholes
guided by the shape of bare trees along the road,
to see Anastasia, my only living link
to my years in Kazakhstan.
She tells me happy women's day in March
and that her sister-in-law makes the best manti.
I wish she'd invite me over for dinner
or even just for tea and candies
from the Kiev Market
but I never ask.
My split ends fall to the floor
and I feel more whole when I leave
knowing someone else in my city
knows about these things.
Katy Shedlock is a pastor, poet, and RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Kazakhstan 08-10) in Spokane, WA. Her poetry has been featured online by Earth & Altar, Line Rider Press, and Pontoon Poetry.
"Spokane, Washington, my hometown, is also home to a large Ukrainian immigrant community. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, I was inundated with memories of my Peace Corps service in Kazakhstan over a decade earlier. This poem attempts to explore the intimacies and missed connections of culture and place."