A Shave in Natal

Living in Natal, Brazil, was time travel. Evenings, we strolled and conversed lazily, danced at the social clubs, visited the dying in front rooms, surrounded by friends, and went to the barber for a shave — hot towels, straight razor, funny jokes and a rubdown, all for a dime, like an old movie.

Once, I was having a haircut. A man with no legs came in, selling lottery tickets. He maneuvered on a roller board, head about knee high. Everyone knew him. A few bought tickets, and he moved past the line of chairs where he waited. Why was he still there?

The barber to my right finished a guest and turned to the lottery agent. “Same as ever, José?”, who nodded. In a fluid motion the barber lifted him from board to chair. Question answered — a customer, like everyone else, and a frequent one.

A sheet billowed out and was pinned behind his neck, steaming cloth applied, and the conversation continued without break. A few minutes later, towels removed and face skillfully shaved smooth and clean, followed by a brisk massage. Second puzzle — the barber was in no hurry and the next patron seemed happy where he was. Gossip, sports, politics, weather flowed as ever in that global mens’ club. José smiled and chatted, a member in full standing.

I was done. My barber spun me about to face the grand mirror on the wall of every barbershop. “What do you think?”, “Looks great!”, universal query and response. My eyes strayed to the salesman’s reflection, head level with mine, great sheet before him down to floor. Puzzle solved. José sold them lottery tickets and a chance at riches. They sold him a shave — and added legs for a few minutes every day.

Winter Words

On cold winter mornings
	in Santiago,
	I wanted a typewriter —

I looked at the machines
	in the repairman's window
	each day as I walked to work —

There was winter prose,
	trapped in the keys,
	waiting liberation —

I always passed by,
	never entering once —

All that English
	still languishes cold
	in Chilean solitary.

Waiting

Waiting is
	gray and cold
	even in summer —

Jorge waits in line
	two hours a day —

And Norman says
	when he's in line
	he's doing something wrong —

Queue shortening,
	fruit ripening,
	tank filling,
	baby entering world,
	life ending,
		most tedious of all —

Always in the future,
	unfulfilled anxiety.

Things at the Last Minute

Rolls, babysitter, medicine, coffee,
	you're on my mind —
Try to work, talk, talk, talk,
	you're still there —
Checks, flowers, books,
	(once, you wrote to me)
Cook, dishes, pack, eat
	(your eyes across the table)
Tired, exhausted, lonely,
	sleep — bed.

The Tree

A spruce of some sort,
	dense with painful needles —

Somewhat taller than
	the six year old
	who had taken a sudden interest
	in something other than a Star Pine
		bent double with
		its weight again in ornaments —

After twenty years,
	that scent of indoor conifer
	was ecstatic.

Talk and Snow

Today, I talked and talked
	about bacteria and
	other little things —

I talked and talked and talked
	while snow fell outside,
		silently, gently, adding
			onto itself,
		blurring my morning tracks,
		burying my car,
		erasing colors, blacks and grays —

I left my white board
	covered with red circles,
	blue arrows and black words,
And entered my white world,
	soft white mounds
		on flat white planes,
	white sky,
		white air —

Speechless and lost.

Sunrise Satori

Sun layered gold through green
	onto black snow
	Christmas morning —

Gwyneth, dog supreme,
	loped silent snow paws
	through light and dark
	of forest dawn —

Saw bear lumbering
		to winter sleep,
	bobcat,
	spruce bough settled,
		with curious gaze —
Gave chase at imagined nothings
	floating in air ice
	great dog noises snow-muffled
		making silence silenter —

Finally circles into white nest,
	smiling at bear protector,
	who dreams of crazy cat,
	who laughs at dog below —

Three creatures
	sensing a brief perfection —
		right place,
			right time.