It was light and lusterless and somehow luckless,
The hair I cut from the head of my father-in-law,
It was pepper-blanched and wind-scuffed, thin
As a blown bulb’s filament, it stuck to the teeth
Of my clippers like a dark language, the static
Covering his mind stuck to my fingers, it mingled
In halfhearted tufts with the dust. Because
Every barber’s got a gift for mind reading in his touch,
I could hear what he would not say. He’d sworn
To never let his hair be cut again after his daughter
Passed away. I told him how my own boy,
His grandchild, weeps when my clippers bite
Behind his ear, but I could not say how
The blood there tastes. I almost showed him
How I bow my own head to the razor in my hands,
How a mirror is used to taper the nape.
Science and religion come to the same conclusion:
Someday all the hair on the body will fall away.
I’m certain he will only call on me for a few more years,
The crown of his head is already smoother
Than any part of his face. It shines like the light
In tiny bulbs of sweat before the sweat evaporates.
From How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Terrance Hayes. Used with the permission of the author.
The 2010 winner of the National Book Award in poetry, Terrance Hayes is the author of seven poetry collections. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2017-11-27
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/barberism