Bill Zavatsky


In the mirror it's plain to see:
soon I'll be bald, like the two faceless men
staring at each other in the word SOON.
Left profile crowding mirror, I can still pretend
it isn't happening—enough tangled skeins
of hair hide the gleam. But from the right,
where the wave lifts, I don't have to push my face
close to see it winking at me—
the mysterious island of my skull,
the dinky coastline of my baby head
swimming back to me at last.
Through the sparse shore weeds
that dot the beach (I mean my
miserable hairs), it glints. Soon
I'll crawl ashore where all uncles live—
the ones who never grew any hair,
their clown cannibal heads hilarious
in photographs, glaring like chromosomes
from dresser picture frames the way
they always did when I and my cousins
stopped short in a game of tag to stare at them,
trapped under glass in their dumb grown-up world,
a phrenology of how I'd never be. Then
two years ago I saw my head in a three-way mirror
buying a coat: three pink slivers of skin like slices
of pizza radiating from my part. The overhead lighting
shriveled my scalp, scorching my silk purse
to a sow's ass. Soon the morning hairs in the sink
reached out their arms and wailed to me.
Soon the moonlight with its chilly hands
seized my cranium, taking measurements.
Everybody kept quiet. I was the last to know.
Yes, I'm drifting closer. Closer
to the desert island where I'll live out my days
training to be ever more the skeleton
that's taking over my body pore by pore.
Hair by hair its fingerbone scissors snip me
away, I who in the sixties fell in love
with my own hair! Who swooned among
battalions of Narcissuses over the ripples
our long tresses made in that mirror
of our generation, the President's face!
I who have always known
that Death is a haircut!
Walking the streets I pause to study my scalp
where it hangs in a butcher shop window,
reflected beside the other meat.
Under my breath I sing the song I'm learning
that goes, "Bald is anonymous . . . bald is goodbye."
I will not grow the hair above my ear
until it's ten feet long, then drape it suavely
over the empty parking lot atop my head
where the forest used to loom, then plaster it down
with goo. No, I don't want a toupee
to fall in my soup, or a hair transplant
driven into my brain with giant needles!
I shoo away the mysterious weave
spun from the dead hair of unfortunate ones,
rich only in what grows from their heads.
I reject the compensatory beard—I refuse
to live my life upside-down!
I prepare myself to receive the litanies
chanted by the kids as I enter the classroom:
"Chrome dome, marble head, baldy bean, skin head,
Bowling ball brain, reflector head, bubble top . . . ."
I urge them on in the making of metaphor!
I am content to merge with the reflection
of every bald barber who ever adjusted my head.
I am enchanted, so late, to be becoming
someone else—the face in the mirror which,
by the time I claim it, won't even look like me!
I am thrilled to realize that the scythe
of the grim reaper is nothing more
than a cheap plastic comb
you can buy in any drugstore,
and even its teeth fall out.

Bill Zavatsky, Where X Mark the Spot, Hanging Loose Press, 2006.