Matthew Nadelson

Barber Shop Poem, Riverside, California

I run my hand along the scars across the back
of my neck, and I’m fifteen again
in the barber’s chair,
his clippers hacking at my cysts.
He tells me barbers used to be doctors,
with their barbed brushes
and blunt scalpels, but I don’t buy it.
The ritual scalping over,
I glanced to my shoulders, sure the future
rested somewhere there in the red
blood trickling down,
buried beneath this husk
of flesh and bone. I shrugged it off,
fearing the future
was as inevitable as hair
or heat-bumps, as the barber called my cysts,
fruit of my teenage loneliness and fear,
the roots of desperation and despair.