Quince

by Laura Read

I dreamed a man cut my hair before I could say
yes or no. I didn’t know whether to say yes
or no. I still don’t. He cut it in the kind of steps
rice paddies are grown. That doesn’t work for curls
but it feels good when the scissors are actually
doing the thing you’ve feared and wanted.
I used to wear my hair short because that’s what
my mother thought I should do. She said
I was an autumn and didn’t look good in red.
I should marry someone rich because I couldn’t
take care of myself. She meant well.
Like when she pointed at a picture of a panda
sleeping and said it reminded her of me because
I’d always known how to relax. It was something
she wouldn’t do but she’d come to understand
it could have some virtue. My hair makes me look
like the girl who lived in the apartment with the boy
who stole her money for drugs. She both knew
and she didn’t. She liked his arm around her
in the dark, making the night feel harmless
and soft. Seeing myself like this again makes me
almost forgive her. When she finally kicked him out,
she listened to that song by The Replacements
about the black-eyed susans. It was his cd.
She’d never even seen a black-eyed susan or at least
she’d never seen one and known that’s what it was.
Yesterday I drove to a farm with a woman
who was looking for quince. She knew how much
you could put in a pie to make the apples taste
a little richer. When a beautiful man named Daniel
took us out on a tractor and asked what kind of apples
we wanted, she said Empire as if that was the only answer.
If a man cut her hair in a dream, she would wake up
and think, Yes, that is exactly right. A day can turn
on a dime. When I woke up with my hair shorn,
I had thought quince only lived in a Persian fairy tale.
I think I am in love with you. But is this the truth?
Obviously, I am not the kind of woman who would know.