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Haircut, with a Vision of My Father's Ashes

Millimeter snips
of my clipped hair slip, sifting
from the scissor-edge

to my arms, my lap
where their dappled black-and-gray
lets a brain-switch flip

to some inner eye,
flashing back: his cigarette
ashes. Weightless waste

of spent Chesterfields,
Winstons, Camels, Lucky Strikes,
sour in the ashtrays

flanking his wing chair,
sodden in highball glasses,
stubbed in bathroom sinks

where the Barbasol's
faux-menthol was powerless
to perfume the stink.

What was ash to him?
Decades of film noir explain
how he dreamed himself—

pure Forties Bogart,
dinner-jacket suave, a cool
hand gesturing smoke,

a smolder censing
rooms thick with urbanity.
Struck from the film script:

his wife, his daughters
cleaning bathrooms, tasting ash.
Daydreams luffed away

the tobacco's sludge,
shipyard's sweat, and fatherhood's
pained bewilderment—

What? Oh, the mirror.
Done. So much reflection pours
ashes on my head:

Even while tea-rose
breathings of salon chatter
gust away his ghost,

I, too, turn to ash
cigarettewise, my loose ends
cinder-swept away.

Maryann Corbett

Crab Orchard Review

Volume 21 2017

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