Poem of the Week | September 14, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “My Father Cuts My Hair” by Colin Bailes!

Colin Bailes is an MFA candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he serves as the 2020–2021 Levis Reading Prize Fellow. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Boiler, The Cortland Review, The McNeese Review, Meridian, and Raleigh Review, among other journals. He is originally from Florida.


My Father Cuts My Hair

Scooted between bathroom wall and sink,
an oak dining room chair

with ornate backing: wisteria
and berries carved into the wood.

My father peels down my ear,
like an orange, chisels away at the hair.

Sliced by the jalousie windows,
afternoon sunlight

glints off the swiveled silver shears
pinched between his thumb

and forefinger. Hair floats to the floor
like sawdust. My fingers

grasp the cold mint countertop
as he palms my crown,

tilts my head down to shape the neckline.
This is my favorite part: lather

warmed in his hands, leather strop
strung to the shower rod,

scrape of the straight-razor
as black blades of hair are scythed away.

The cooling sting of Lucky Tiger—
grapefruit, orange, and tangerine

filling the room like smoke.
My head a statue released from marble.



Author’s Note

I recently relocated to Virginia from Florida after living the first twenty-eight years of life there, and I’ve found myself mining childhood memories for poetic material and examining past experience to better understand my present self. “My Father Cuts My Hair” is one such poem to result from this exploration and attempts to articulate the ways in which parents shape and mold their children, especially how there is both a tenderness and an austerity to this molding.