To a Child Trapped in a Barbershop by Phillip Levine

April 25, 2008

You’ve gotten in through the transom
and you can’t get out
till Monday morning or, worse,
till the cops come.

That six-year-old red face
calling for mama
is yours; it won’t help you
because your case

is closed forever, hopeless.
So don’t drink
the Lucky Tiger, don’t
fill up on grease

because that makes it a lot worse,
that makes it a crime
against property and the state
and that costs time.

We’ve all been here before,
we took our turn
under the electric storm
of the vibrator

and stiffened our wills to meet
the close clippers
and heard the true blade mowing
back and forth

on a strip of dead skin,
and we stopped crying.
You think your life is over?
It’s just begun.


One comment

  1. I love this poem. I’ve been there before. I know how life can cheat us, how cruel it can be, and I think Philip Levine has successfully used the image of a haircut as a symbol of that cruelty, of lost innocence. I can’t think of a better poem to convey this theme. The storm is coming for this boy, as it does for all of us. This is a brilliant poem.

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