American Life in Poetry: Column 303


There’s something wonderfully sweet about a wife cutting a husband’s hair, and Bruce Guernsey, who lives in Illinois and Maine, captures it beautifully in this poem.

For My Wife Cutting My Hair

You move around me expertly like the good, round
Italian barber I went to in Florence,
years before we met, his scissors
a razor he sharpened on a belt.

But at first when you were learning, I feared
for my neck, saw my ears like sliced fruit
on the newspapered floor. Taking us back in time,
you cleverly clipped my head in a flat-top.

The years in between were styles no one had ever seen,
or should see again: when the wind rose
half my hair floated off in feathers,
the other half bristling, brief as a brush.

In the chair, almost asleep, I hear the bright
scissors dancing. Hear you hum, full-breasted as Aida,
carefully trimming the white from my temples,
so no one, not even I, will know.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Bruce Guernsey, whose most recent book of poems is “New England Primer,” Cherry Grove Collection, 2008. Reprinted from the Spoon River Poetry Review, Vol. XXXV, No. 2, Summer/Fall 2010, by permission of Bruce Guernsey and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.