When Randy used the word as though
it were a word that anyone might use,
I don’t know what I thought. I flared his cape
with my forearms and shifted in his chair.
I know I didn’t think of Tony’s hair,
a hi-top fade that Randy would have no
idea how to fix. I know I said
nothing, by which I must have meant Continue
filling my ears with trimmings. Dust my nape
with talcum. Offer me impartial views
of both sides of the back of my head.
And outside, let the barber’s pole continue
its reenactment. Let the silver ball recall
the bowl of leeches. Let the helical
progress-illusion of the stripes remain
the blood, the twining bandage, and the vein.
America, and I’m about to talk
directly to the Eric in you,
you had to pay for that one, but
the man you say you mean to be will walk
out of some barbershops with his hair half-cut.
Eric McHenry was the poet laureate of Kansas from 2015-2017. He is the author of Odd Evening (The Waywiser Press, 2016), a finalist for the Poets’ Prize; Potscrubber Lullabies (The Waywiser Press, 2006), which received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; and Mommy Daddy Evan Sage (The Waywiser Press, 2011), a book of children’s poems illustrated by Nicholas Garland. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, Cincinnati Review, Field, Orion, The Guardian, Poetry Daily, and Poetry Northwest, from whom he received the 2010 Theodore Roethke Prize. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife and two children and teaches creative writing at Washburn University.