for Arthur Sze
Somehow precise and unquestionable,
the cut of the Chinese man’s hair.
Never before this certainty,
I consider the decision of each strand.
The diameter. The angle.
So black, the way it appears,
crashing against the hard corner of his jaw.
I consider the darkness.
You are appointed court photographer. Consider this picture.
My small face is red behind a bath towel curtain.
I watch a funeral that is taking place next door.
So black, my dog,
hurling himself against a chain link fence.
The casket is lowered and I am removing rusty pins
from the grease on the window’s aluminum track,
along with strands of hair.
This is pressing.
I mark it with an asterisk. Black and large.
A vague feeling,
pressing itself against a snowfence in my mind.
Like a threat, I view the way you cut your hair
as if it were a history of something small.
James Thomas Stevens, “The Awful Ease of Tides” from A Bridge Dead in the Water. Copyright © 2007 by James Thomas Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.
Source: A Bridge Dead in the Water (Salt Publishing, 2007)
Poems by James Thomas Stevens