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By Kevin Young

Closed Mondays

is music    is men

off early from work    is waiting

for the chance at the chair

while the eagle claws holes

in your pockets    keeping

time    by the turning

of rusty fans    steel flowers with

cold breezes    is having nothing

better to do    than guess at the years

of hair    matted beneath the soiled caps

of drunks    the pain of running

a fisted comb through stubborn

knots    is the dark dirty low

down blues    the tender heads

of sons fresh from cornrows    all

wonder at losing    half their height

is a mother gathering hair    for good

luck    for a soft wig    is the round

difficulty of ears    the peach

faced boys asking Eddie

to cut in parts and arrows

wanting to have their names read

for just a few days    and among thin

jazz    is the quick brush of a done

head    the black flood around

your feet    grandfathers

stopping their games of ivory

dominoes    just before they reach the bone

yard    is winking widowers announcing

cut it clean off    I’m through courting

and hair only gets in the way    is the final

spin of the chair    a reflection of

a reflection    that sting of wintergreen

tonic    on the neck of a sleeping snow

haired man    when you realize it is

your turn    you are next


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Young, Kevin. “Eddie Priest’s Barbershop & Notary.” Most Way Home. Published by Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press of Hanover, New Hampshire. Copyright © 1995 by Kevin Young. 96-97.

Source: Most Way Home (Zoland Books, 1995)

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Poet Bio

Kevin Young
Kevin Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He studied under Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido at Harvard University and, while a student there, became a member of the Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers. “I feel like a poem is made up of poetic and unpoetic language, or unexpected language,” Young said in a 2006 interview with Ploughshares. “I think there are many other vernaculars, whether it’s the vernacular of the blues, or the vernacular of visual art, the sort of living language of the everyday.” For roughly a decade, Young was the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. Young is the poetry editor of the New Yorker and the director of New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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