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  You could have a big dipper   

Ode to the Razor by Melissa Sussens

The first time we met I was seven years old.

You were my mother’s, before

I stole you, tiptoed with you

rolled into my favourite washcloth, a secret

ill-gotten beauty pageant award. You accompanied me

into the bath where I introduced you to my limbs.

That morning at school I had met their dark

forest for the first time.

All day their thick veil was all I could see.

You swooped in to the rescue,

my companion in de-shaming. Together

we rid my legs and arms of their embarrassing thicket,

left them a mannequin

of beauty instead. I kept you close from then.

When I didn’t have time to visit you,

I chose cotton over flesh, wore shorts to the pool.

At ten, you met my toes, after their free sprouting

had been pointed out at the school athletics day.

At twelve, a boy in my swimming team told me he could see

the shadow of my underarms, and again I turned to you,

the only one who could encourage me back into the pool.

At thirteen I replaced you with your sharp-toothed cousin,

ripped my shames out at the root, one by one.

That pain marked the years, rings in the tree of my growing up.

At twenty I left you to gather dust through the winter,

until a male friend noticed my jeans rise up to expose

the undergrowth of my legs, destroying the poster

of womanhood he kept pinned up in his mind.

In defiance I left you untouched for another month.

The feminist in me wants to believe I don’t need you

at all, yet before putting on shorts or dresses to model

myself as woman in public spaces, I still find myself drawn

to your sleek elegance. You are still the first one I turn to

when I need reminding that I am attractive. My self confidence

reliant on your smooth compliments.

I can live without you, but only when

the parts of me you know best are hidden.


Melissa Sussens (she/her) is a queer veterinarian and poet. Her work has appeared in Capsule Stories and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others. She placed 2nd in the New Contrast National Poetry Prize and lives in Cape Town with her fiancé and their dogs. Find her on Instagram @melissasussens and Twitter @girlstillwrites.

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