poem by James Valvis


I tell the barber to shave it off, and he stares
like I’m crazy. Almost half my age,
he’s balding, thin hairs pulled back to cover
a spot on his head, round and smooth
as a pitcher’s mound, expanding like dough.
I want a crewcut, I tell him, get rid of it all,
use the lowest number on the electric clippers.
He shakes his neat head, but it’s time.
Hair is my curse, how it grows and grows
everywhere like an untended garden
overrunning the property’s borders.
All my life these strands trying to escape,
preferring even the dark world to me.
What does the barber know about this
letting go, this constant shaving oneself?
He talks of losing his hair,
but really he’s keeping it inside himself,
not surgically removing it twice a month.
What does he know, smelling of Old Spice,
keeping his life’s work in this one small shop,
his scissors held close to his chest,
as a picture of his wife smiles up at us both?
I sit dumbfounded by her solid brown eyes,
her white teeth, straight as a comb.
Everything about him is compact, trim,
just a little off the top, my good man.
How many loves scattered on the floor of my life?
He ties the bib tight around my neck.
Are you sure? he asks, and when I nod,
he gets to work carving me to pieces.



James Valvis