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Barber

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Learn from the man who spends much of his life speaking
             To the back of your head knowing what it means to follow

The razor’s edge along a worn strop or random thoughts
             As they spring so invisibly from the mind to a mouth

Who shouldered soldiers in two wars and fled fire fields
             Undecorated who fathered once but was fatherless forever

And who works his sentiments in deeper into your scalp
             Under a sign on the knotty-pine walls whose rubric reads

quot homines, tot sententiae which means he sees
             In you his suffering smells of horehound tonics and gels

Pillow heads and powders and a floor full of snippings
             Swept neatly every evening into a pile for the field mice

All those roundabout hours only a man who fixes his tie
             To clip crabgrass crowding a lady’s grave could believe

With a certain clean devotion and who would never for one
             Moment dream of hurting you when your back was turned


Source: Poetry (November 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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Barber

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