After a Hard Day in a Noisy Shop [To the hairdresser who admits to moonlighting]

By R.S. Carlson

Can you aim the light

to better see the work?

Is there help to turn or prop her head

when she needs shampoo, trim and curl?


She won’t complain the scissors are too cold, or that

the comb hit a mole, or that suds are burning her eyes.

She won’t be back for retouch because the

perm didn’t take across the nape of her neck, or


because she wants the bangs

taken up another quarter inch,

or because she really wants follow-up

on the shop tales of who is sleeping with whom…


You’ll want family and friends

to like her looks — even though

her own hand won’t move

back into her wallet for a good folding tip,


and where she’s going next,

the chance for good referrals goes with her, but

you still give her the best possible coif for

all those ritual last glances at the coffin.


R. S. Carlson, a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA, served with the US Army in Quang Tri Province, Viet Nam 1970–1971.  In recent years, he has made several trips to China and Southeast Asia with various aid agencies, and has led intensive English workshops for Chinese teachers of English in Guangdong and Xinjiang provinces.

His poetry has appeared in Poetry/LA; Northwest Review; The Texas Review; Birmingham Poetry Review; Poet Lore; The Cape Rock; The Hollins Critic; The Nebraska Review; The Hawai’i Review; Phase and Cycle; The Lucid Stone; Lynx Eye; Viet Nam Generation; Sunstone; The Panhandler, Limestone Circle, The Listening Eye, Praesidium, The Chaffin Journal, Slant, Illya’s Honey, International Poetry Review, Poem, and other literary magazines.

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