Saturday Poem

A Haircut

So many impossible things have already
happened in this life. He doesn’t think
twice when she tells him to get ready:
He’s about to get a haircut.

He sits in the chair in the upstairs room,
the room they sometimes joke and refer to
as the library. There’s a window there
that gives light. Snow’s coming
down outside as newspapers go down
around his feet. She drapes a big
towel over his shoulders. Then
gets out her scissors, comb, and brush.

This is the first time they’ve been
alone together in a while – with nobody
going anywhere, or needing to do
anything. Not counting the going
to bed with each other. That intimacy.
Or breakfasting together. Another
intimacy. They both grow quiet
and thoughtful as she cuts his hair,
and combs it, and cuts some more.
The snow keeps falling outside.
Soon, light begins to pull away from
the window. He stares down, lost and
musing, trying to read
something from the paper. She says,
“Raise your head.” And he does.
And then she says, “See what you think
of it.” He goes to look
in the mirror, and it’s fine.
It’s just the way he likes it,
and he tells her so.

It’s later, when he turns on the
porchlight, and shakes out the towel
and sees the curls and swaths of
white and dark hair fly out onto
the snow and stay there,
that he understands something: He’s
grownup now, a real, grownup,
middle-aged man. When he was a boy,
going with his dad to the barbershop,
or even later, a teenager, how
could he have imagined his life
would someday allow him the privilege of
a beautiful woman to travel with,
and sleep with, and take his brakfeast with?
Not only that – a woman who would
quietly cut his hair in the afternoon
in a dark city that lay under the snow
3000 miles away from where he’d started.
A woman who could look at him
across the table and say,
“It’s time to put you in the barber’s
chair. It’s time somebody gave you
a haircut.”

by Raymond Carver
from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water
Vintage Books, 1985