Haircut comes from the collection Genteel Messages. It has also been published at Pulsar. The poem is dedicated to my barber, Gordon, in whose barber shop in the annex to the front room of his terraced house, I along with hundreds of others spent many an interesting and illuminating ten or twelve minutes. He cut hair and chatted bravely, nineteen-to-the-dozen, almost until his last breath. God bless him and those other gentlemen of his ilk.
These days clients prefer to go to by appointment to the friseur, the hair-stylist, the uni-sex coiffure or the hair salon. Men like Gordon with his flying instruments operating under the striped pole may all too soon be an institution of the past.
Whenever I read the following poem I see the shop, the man, the hair on the linoleum floor, hear the rustle of a newspaper, feel the change of light on my face from the door swinging open and shut. It's all still there, at least it is in my mind. I'm glad I wrote Haircut.
Gordon spoke in soft low tones
over the rapid clip-clip and snip-snip
of his flying instruments.
I went for ten minutes every month;
my gaze would meet his on silver surface
that was bruised and chipped; I'd catch
the steel gleam in his grey eyes and
note the eloquent lift of his right
The place smelled of lavender
and bay rum over exhalations of linoleum.
He touched on important subjects;
women, football, cars, condoms,
the latest gas leak and
how every creature on earth was preyed
upon by some other creature.
He was a fount of wisdom and insight
and when he paused to catch a thought
he made half-masticated noises
with his loose teeth. There was a vein
to his chat if you followed it. Words
gushed from him.
Customers came and went
swift as swallows;
fugacious as time itself.