Friday Poem

—The Chinese micro-carver Chen Zhongen
can inscribe poems on a single strand of hair
The Stylist

I asked for a headful of sonnets
(Petrarchan) from scalp to split end.
Short-haired one, said he,
the most I can do for you
is a crop of haiku.

A bit miffed, I looked round the room
at enormous close-ups of women
with sestinas twirled through their ringlets,
thousands of Möbius strips
curled round recidivist words.

A man with a brylled-black mullet
sported tercets over his ears,
and a thicket of octets ending in knots:
the days of the week in Old Norse.

Poems with upbeat conclusions
on the flick-ups of nymphet models.
Bawdy love-lyrics from the 1700s
hidden inside dense dark shag perms,
and rhyming couplets at the outer tips
of a blonde boy’s barely-there eyebrows.

Not fair, I thought; oh, to be Rapunzel
with space for the lost Latin epics
of Valerius Flaccus cascading
down past my backside.

But no; I got Ezra Pound’s petals
above my wet and blackening brow.
Some highlights from Japanese wisdom.
And one of the stylist’s own:
What hard work this is,
blinded by flurries of snow:
your psoriasis.

by Mary O'Donoghue
from: Among These Winters
Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2007

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