Poetry Rivals 2016

Taking poetry from the page to the stage!


In the last few months
she started to cut her husband's hair
when the mob in his blood had lynched his health
and sentenced his body to stop.
The nurses
they thought they did a better job because
from time to time she would miss a little spot.
They'd tell her
put down the scissors
we do this a lot.
But she would snap her scissors
and cut a line through the air
which they were not to cross –
only she cut his hair.
So one day I asked her,
Why not let someone else have a try?
Why not take him to the salon
get your nails done in the meantime?
She said,
What's wrong with my nails?
But why must you alone cut his hair?
And she told me,
‘Because I can't do a lot.
I can't bring down that thing that burdens him.
That unfair thing
that multiplies beneath his own skin
that dictates what he can eat
and say
and remember.
I can't un-plaster the propaganda
from his veins.
That fascist thing
that weighs down his limbs.
I would if I could but I can't
bring it to its knees as it has done him
push it out to sea as it has done him.
I would if I could but I can't keep him from sinking.
I've tried
for so long now.
I read all the right books
cooked all the right meals.
I gave him the pills and the lifejackets
the morphine patches
the prayers.
I mayday called the doctor a fool
when she told us this was it.
That books and food were of no use now
looking me down like I was lost
at sea.
But I am not.
And he is not.
He is not a ship.
He is not a metaphor.
He is a man who promised himself grey to me.
He promised me white hair
and wrinkles
and arthritis for God's sake.
Promised me Sunday mornings
talking over papers about the things we'd done
the children we'd raised
how the country has gone to the dogs yet again.
He promised me a lifetime.
And now they're telling me
he can't keep his word?
That decades have rotted into weeks.
That half of me has decayed into grief
that I'll visit once a month on a Sunday with nothing
but fresh flowers and tears to talk over.
And I can't do anything to stop that?
I can't do anything to stop that.
But I can cut his hair.
His wall of hair
that stood so strong when we first met.
Strong enough to withstand me.
And mortgage payments.
It survived the first round of chemo
but the second time it fell down.
Weak from fighting for democracy.
And when they told him that he had lost, you see
his hair began to grow back. And when it did,
it was white.
Just like he'd promised.
All of the things he had promised
– the future
the retirement, the grey –
now sit on top of his head.
And so now I cut his hair.
He tells me how it wants it
and I know people don't think it looks very good
but he tells me that I've done a great job.
And I can have that.
We can make our small bit of future
look how we want it to.
And we can have that.’

Toby Campion