X by H. L. Johnson

When I stopped shaving 

         under my arms

when I stopped shaving the leg

I was not thinking about you.

The young woman stuffed her

  shirt with tissues for tips.

Haslam was not this woman.

Haslam stops shaving at 25

unworried about the waitress

who will notice, who will tell

my husband who will tell

me, “they” talk about 

                     unshaved armpits.

Haslam is the woman.

 Woman has always been 


It wasn’t shame exactly

nor exactly fear

but some male threat Haslam felt:

when her hair was too short

a man followed her in to the John.

He did nothing.  He didn’t know.

Haslam girl woman pudgy twelve

  boy bad cut just twelve.

Not-Haslam said her brothers teased.

I remember she said “on the rag.”

Haslam and the Family Picnic

  Haslam afraid of the razor

  Haslam brave     Haslam coward

                                shaves for the first time

then for a dozen years. Haslam

decides in 1990 your ideas

are stupid, that shaving is a social construct.

Haslam advertises for the O

 shape of their lips.

None of this the least related to sex.


H.L. Johnson has been writing for enough years to come into her full voice. She is the founder and driving force of a small bi-annual reading series. Her manuscript-in-progress The Scurrilous Notebooks includes these and other poems. Johnson, a feminist activist, is the behind-the-scenes presence on several public social media pages and is actively involved in raising money for redistribution to women in crisis.

Monthly Editor Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas.




One thought on “X by H. L. Johnson

  1. I love this poem. It’s complex and slmple at the same time. This takes me to the time I was on a womens e-mail group. The subject of shaving came up, and one of the women said she liked the feel of the hair on her legs. What a freeing thing to read.

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