Waiting outside the haircutter’s shop (Poem)


Waiting outside the haircutter’s shop

Waiting outside the haircutters’ shop
For the women to come open up
A little tabby cat homed in on me
Seduced my hand with perfect trust
Yielded to my thumb in her ears
Permitted herself to be picked up
Purred when I scratched her belly
Oh, how lovely the curl of her hair in the sun!
Reverently I put her down when she arched her back
She lay on the pavement, stretched, and yawned
My heart melted.  She was a messenger of grace.
The haircutter arrived, opened the shop.
I took the chair. Was collared, draped.
A second worker came.  They spoke in rapid Vietnamese.
Her clipper snarled near my ears. I heard helicopter blades.
Twenty years of war flashed through my head.
What carpets of bombs, what fields of dead children,
What mountains of debt, torrents of blood,
What agonies of the heart
Did it take to bring her hands to my hair?
My eyes began to fill with tears.