Poetry 107: Classic Hair Designs by Moya Cannon


Every day they are dropped off
at Classic Hair Designs,
sometimes in taxis,
sometimes by daughters,
often by middle-aged sons
in sober coats,
who pull in tight by the kerb,
stride around to the door,
and offer an arm.

How important this
almost last vestige
of our animal pelt is.
How we cherish it –
the Egyptians’ braided bob,
those banded Grecian curls,
the elaborate patterns of Africa,
the powdered, teetering pompadour,
the sixties’ long shining fall over a guitar,

and the fine halo
of my almost-blind
ninety-two-year-old neighbour,
permed and set
in the style
in which she stepped out
with her young man
after the last World War.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

4 thoughts on “Poetry 107: Classic Hair Designs by Moya Cannon

  1. Interesting poem, first stanza with sharply observed scenes as older people arrive at the hairdressers, second very sharp too with its point that many of us are vain about our hair, yet it is just a vestigial bit of hair or fur.

    My initial reaction to the last stanza was of mild irritation at what I thought was schmaltzy stereotyping of the older neighbour, the ‘halo’ of hair, the faux-pitying remark about her being half-blind, and use of a quaint expression ‘stepping out’ with ‘her young man’, as if being old inevitably means living in the past, which (to my mind) may an absolutist position adopted by young journos for creative literary purposes, and is worth challenging.

    It’s not unusual for some older people to create for themselves the sweet-old-thing or the crusty-old-curmudgeon image, perhaps because it’s easier to do that than to live in the ‘messy middle’ of later life without the false security of role-taking, but I do think that I prefer the uncertainty and its daily challenge to be one’s authentic self; and it’s better for one’s health too, perhaps, and one’s relationship to the perceived otherness of things.

  2. I take your point, Peter. The last verse is maybe indeed the person holding on to a past image of herself at her most vibrant and alive, but I also sort of saw it as a form of proud almost fierce optimism, a defiance against the encroachment of time,

    1. It’s truly great to share ideas with you again Barry. I miss you!

      Yours is a sturdy and valued perspective on this fascinating issue, that of growing old.

      I’m not against being proud, but I’m not sure that optimism needs to be fierce, nor defiant, as these positions seem to me to be rather extreme positions on change, as does the idea of the encroachment of time, a sort of pernicious and unwelcome invasion, rather than an unfolding to be welcomed instead of resisted.

      Better, perhaps, to relax into and cooperate with change than to turn one’s face obstinately against it. But that’s just an alternative point of view.

      Bless you.

  3. Likewise Peter! And on reflection fierce and defiant are terms that do feel somewhat shrill and strident in this context. I really like the idea of relaxing into and cooperating with change.

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