Oldest first, youngest last, Dad sat us down
on the kitchen stool, wrapped a dish towel
around our shoulders and clipped our heads
with an electric shears, a skill he’d practiced
in boot camp on buddies from his platoon.
Hold still, Dad cautioned, or you’ll get nicked.
We inhaled and held ourselves still as stone.
The clipper’s teeth pinched and bit, drew blood
enough Dad doctored us with wet rags and a pep-talk
about taking pain like a man. About the good
soldier—both legs torn with shrapnel—
who’d inched back to the trenches, limping
bravely through the fire-fight, a wounded
comrade or two in tow. Our scrapes were nothing
to cry about. Which felt good, in secret,
to master Dad’s expectations. Good to have him
home the whole day. Good to feel his hands
bracing our craniums, taking care to keep his cuts even.
Later on he’d parade us into the street for a few rounds
of hot grounders and pop-flies, our scabs
like badges of courage beneath our baseball caps.
As founding editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled Poems Across the Big Sky, an anthology of Montana poets, and New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 Western states. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press) was published in 2009 and was a finalist for the Paterson Award. His fourth collection, WE, (Main Street Rag Press) was published in 2010. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.