Rita Hayworth’s Forehead

This poem is dedicated to
The forehead of Rita Hayworth,
Which had a fine hairline, though showbiz
Deemed it had too much girth.

But let’s start with Margarita,
A pre-pubescent girl,
Who’s father, Eduardo Cansino,
Brought her up in the dancing world.

With Irish and Spanish heritage,
And flamenco one of her styles,
Partner/Dad made her wear makeup,
And called her his wife, meanwhile.

By the tender age of twelve,
She was a budding ingénue.
Bolstered by ball gowns and dance poise,
She knew just what to do.

Flashing her dark hazel eyes
Beneath healthy, thick black curls,
Men wanted her, and took her,
From the time she was a girl.

One of these men, a husband,
Noted a hairline trend,
And electrolysized her temples,
Erasing signs of Spanish kin.

Other men insisted she
Red-blondify her hair,
And make her eyebrows thin
So she could dance with Fred Astaire.

It would have been a scandal,
Though why, I cannot see,
To pair a white male star
With a Latina-looking she.

Before Ricky and Lucy showed their
Shared-apart TV beds,
America was not ready
For Margarita’s head.

Not paired with Fred, that is.
Or Gene. Or Glenn. Or Cary.
Their European background
Required a woman more Euro-hairy.

Blonds were best. Italians, maybe.
Jews were okay, too.
But a hint of maybe-Mexican
With white guy wouldn’t do.

I’m sad she couldn’t be herself
And also be successful.
Suppressing one’s identity
For others must be stressful.

So here’s to follicles that grow
In inconvenient places,
To eyebrows, thick and bushy,
That frame our splotchy faces.

Here’s to hair that’s black or gray,
And not turned blond instead.
And to Margarita Carmen Cansino,
And her beautiful forehead.