On Letting My Hair Grow


I’m letting my hair grow.
It’s starting to snow.
Nothing to be done,
Estragon fond.
“Now I’m a donor,” I told Susan,
“on the recent license renewal.”
“They’ll take your anatomical
hair,” she said, the young one
at the Department of Motor
Vehicles: “On your license,
be a donor?” she asked me.
“Sure, and why not.”
“It’s not like you’re going
to be needing it,” she laughed.

I don’t need it now,
I thought to myself,
she in Santa Claus costume
red and white furry thick
and outside snow falling
and her hair black maroon
hanging tussled out
the Santa red cap rimmed
white and the big white
ball at the end bouncing
about as she whirled around
to grab the form
for me to be
an anatomical donor.

My papers in order –
DD214, Birth Cert.,
proof of address – but,
“We don’t need them
this time,” she said.
“You’re in the system.
You showed us all that
last time. You only
have to prove it once.”
(On this I did not
correct her.)
“But let me see
that discharge sheet.
Why don’t you have
on your license?”
She read down my DD214,
taking her time.
I was number 106,
the DMV not crowded,
middle of day middle of
week middle of month.
Not any, any, any.
Middle, middle, middle.
“There it is,” she said.
“Other than dishonorable,”
she happily smiled,
as if given a gift,
or handing me one,
the white ball again
twirling as she turned
and grabbed hold
another rubber stamp.
I was 18, number 16,
that first drawing,
I might have told her.
I looked good a few
of the squad said
of my shaved head
coming from the barber
at Fort Bliss, zero week.
I went in full curled
long and wild just out
of the surf at El Porto.

“OK,” she said. “Take
this to the photographer,
end of the counter.
Merry Christmas!”
And I said it back
to her. It’s best
when at the DMV
to remain calm
and try to relax
and let your hair grow.

“Number 107? 107?”

The Forest, the Haircut, the Pothole, and the Hedgehog

Em Self-PortraitComic book characters are often unreal, fantastic, hyperbolic distortions of people. But the exaggeration may work like an X-ray, revealing the inner monster, or showing some virtual reality, or uncovering a facsimile of truth or beauty. The cartoon form exaggerates features, of a landscape, an idea, a face, enabling the author to make fun of some relatively small tic by accenting it, drawing it out of proportion. But out of proportion to what? The feature could be a pothole in the street, the idea of chivalry, or a haircut.

Speaking of haircuts, I got one last week. I went to a place I’d never been before, over in the Hawthorne district, a small, stand-alone, two-chair shop. I get my hair cut only about twice a year. Not because I’m losing my hair. My hair still grows like, well –

It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear.”

My hairdresser whispered Dante to her partner as I left the shop.

A hard thing to speak ofIt’s not the first time I’ve thought of my hair as a forest or jungle, wondering if the curly mess didn’t suggest an objective correlative for the syntax mess within. In any case, one is easily lost there. And it’s a hard thing to cut, let alone speak of – continuing in the hyperbolic realm of the comic book.

After my haircut, I continued to wander, and I found a copy of “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” in a thrift store over on Division. One of my sisters recommended the book a couple of years ago. I glanced through it and saw this:

“’Who cut your hair like this?’ asked the hairdresser indignantly once I had, with a Dantean effort, entrusted to her the mission of transforming my head of hair into a domesticated work of art.”

The girl handling the thrift store exchanges said nothing about my hair, but she did complement my selection of “Hedgehog,” in agreement with my sister.

As I left the thrift store, hedgehog in hand, a car screamed to a stop in the middle of the street, its driver, a damsel in freaked-out distress, teetering on the edge of a pothole the size of the Chicxulub crater. I chivalrously placed my hedgehog over the pothole, and Beatrice drove safely on, a beatific look of driving peace on her face. “Nice haircut,” she said, as she drove by.

I’m on page 60 of “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” the chapter beginning “Homespun Cowls.”

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” 2006, by Muriel Barbery, translated from French, “L’Élégance du hérisson,” by Alison Anderson, Europa Editions, 2008, 325 pages.

Beehive Hairdo Bun Doodle; or, Tunnel Window

Clay Face by Eric.Friedrich Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel” concerns a young man, a student, on a train, commuting to school. The train enters a long tunnel, longer than the student recalls from previous trips along the same route. The student smokes cigars, stuffs his ears with cotton, his head in a book, and he’s wearing double glasses, clear and dark. He’s dimmed his senses, all but closed his doors of perception (26). The train is crowded. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no end to the tunnel.

Tunnel Under LAX RunwayI had walked down to Tabor Space Saturday afternoon, but it was closed for a memorial service, so I continued over to Hawthorne, where hangouts are plentiful. I bought a coffee and sat at the rear of the shop, under a window through which I could see the clouds drifting east. I had my copy of John Cage’s “Silence” with me, and I had a small notebook, two pencils and a pen. I had my cell phone, and I had not forgotten my reading glasses. I did not have my laptop with me.

The coffee shop was crowded and noisy. But it was the kind of noise that drowns out my tinnitus. Somewhere, there was music. I sat at the end of a comfortable couch. There was a coffee table, and across the table from me was a young man, perhaps a student, with a laptop and small, white earplugs in his ears. He wore glasses. To my right, at the end of the couch, two more young men sat at a small table, both with laptops, both with earplugs. At the end of the coffee table, a woman sat alone with a laptop at a small table with her back to me, her plush black hair piled on top of her head in a twisted bun. And there were charcoal drawings on the walls, of bees, and one of a rooster. From my view at the end of the couch, the woman’s bun seemed to flair up and blend into the rooster tail drawing pinned to the wall.Hair Bun with Rooster Tail.

I drank my coffee, read some in “Silence,” made some notes, checked my cell phone to see if Susan had texted or called. A guy with a laptop and earplugs across from the woman with her hair in a bun got up and left, and another guy with a laptop and earplugs quickly took his place. That’s when I began to think about Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel.” Then the woman with the hair bun got up, packed her things, and left, but another woman quickly took her place. And this new woman also had a hair bun, identical to the first woman’s, and she sat in the same chair in the same position, her back to me, her hair bun mixing with the rooster’s tail in the drawing pinned to the wall.

Window at rear of coffee shop.That’s all. I read, drank coffee, gazed out the window at the clouds continually changing shape. I made some notes for a blog post with a few doodles. I drew a beehive hairdo that spiraled into clouds above a tunnel.