Wednesday, 27 January 2010


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;
restless, shifting,
fugacious as time itself.



  1. You brought him to life here. What a good name! (My barber in Spain is called Monky!)

  2. Like fugacious - literally "fleeting", but the overtones of "fugue" suggests visitors overlapping like the tunes in a fugue - which, at a barbers, they do. There is always a second subject there, waiting.

    I have clippers here, so give myself regular "no.4"s. Barbers are a thing of the past, though there used to be two in Leyburn - the jovial Ronnie, and a cadaverous chap in a brown overall who only worked, under a single bare bulb, on auction mart days, in a dusty room full of equally dusty curling carboard display boxes.

  3. Yes, a really good name; Gordon the Barber, Lord Gordon Byron, Gordon Mason, Gordon Brown ...
    I think I'd be apprehensive of having my hair cut by someone called Senor Monky. But I'm sure as you go there Gordon, Monky must be OK, ole´!

  4. I remember going with my brother when he visited just such a barber. Now it's DIY for me, as described below:-

    Hair Cut

    Thinning hair assumes
    a temporary order
    as scissor blades cross.

    Its pale strands drift down,
    settle like falling snowflakes
    on indoor carpet.

    Little colour left
    since age and life together
    bestowed silver crown.

  5. We've still got some barbers like that round here - the ones that try to be trendy don't seem to last very long.

  6. swift as swallows - yes brilliant - the good old barber

  7. You're absolutely on the button as usual, Dominic.
    It was always a kind of musical chairs at Gordon's and some, simply passing-by, perhaps on the way to the corner shop, the snooker hall or the pub simply came in to sit and chat, then they went out again.
    You should write a poem about Ronnie. It'd be good to read.

  8. Jinksy, that's lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks for popping in Gerald.

    I imagine the last barbers digging-in at your outposts will be quite eager to get to your beard with their longest and sharpest barber scissors!

    They must have wet dreams about shaving you, Gerald!

  10. John, och aye! And don't forget when we went at 17 or so for the Friday night trim, the invariable question as the mirror was held up to your nape: "Anything for the weekend, sir?"
    By jove, such a question, why you almost felt that you were now a real man!

  11. Great poem. I get my hair cut at an old time barbershop, and Takaa still has his barber pole out front. Wouldn't get my hair cut any other way.

  12. I like this poem Gwilym - I enjoyed all the poems in your book which Dominic put in my stocking at christmas.

  13. A poem about Ronnie? I didn't go very often. More likely to wax lyrical about his cadaverous competition!

  14. AM, Lucky you!
    You'd have your work cut out to find a proper barber near where I live. There's one I've been to in Venice. He's a poet and a barber. His poetry books, naturally in Italian, are on sale in the barber shop!
    Yesterday due to emergency roadworks the trams were chaotic and I came into town by a different route. Almost the first thing I saw when I emerged from the U-Bahn - a 'hair designer'.
    Whatever next?

  15. Short sighted Ronnie, his blunt razor semi-sharpened on the strop, the single flickering light bulb, the brown dust coat with its curious stain on the cuff, a customer's bare neck barely in view... there must be a line or two in it, Dominic!

  16. Weaver "enjoyed all the poems" folks! In the book there are 39 others.

    Thank you, gentle kind wonderful Weaver.

    If only my publisher was half as good at advertising we'd have won the TSE* by now!
    (*Only joking, I don't mean that Martin!)


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