The Poet Community

Barber in a Country Town | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Elmo has spent 40 years
cutting hair in a little shop
in a country town
along the Mississippi.
Vegetables and meat
were currency when
he first came to town.
Now Elmo wants money.

Farmers wait in chairs
along the wall
and look at magazines
with girls in them
and talk about the drought
sometimes quietly
until Elmo beckons
and it’s their turn.

Elmo takes his time
with every noggin,
never in a rush,
claims to be an artist
trained in the city, tells
whoever complains
Picasso took his time

No address on the door,
no phone in the shop,
yet plenty of business.
Farmers bring their sons
and later their grandsons.
Elmo cuts no ladies’ hair.
He’s a married man
and Paula brings his lunch,
sandwiches and thermos,
every day and goes back home
but she always looks around.

Asked why no address
and no phone, Elmo says
after 40 years if they
don’t know where he is
they can take their heads
somewhere else.
He has a brother cutting
hair in another town
fifty miles up the river
and they can go see him.
He can use the business.
Remember, Elmo’s an artist
and a very busy man.

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