“Cutting Room” by Troy Jollimore

Troy Jollimore


Sooner or later everyone needs a haircut.
—Ed Crane, The Man Who Wasn’t There

The note of longing that creeps into the voice
of the woman who cuts my hair when she says
“Oh, it was amazing”—she is speaking of the time

she was twenty-one and went for a week-long cruise 
around the Virgin Islands on a friend’s sailboat—
is so heartfelt, so hushed, 

so purely human that it makes me wonder 
what parts of the story she is leaving out, 
what she isn’t saying, which suspends itself, 

as the unsaid always does, like a shadow or aura
over the words she has allowed herself to say. 
Meanwhile her scissors sing the snip snip snip

of revision, and small seed-packets of my hair 
are drifting to the floor as if through humid forest 
air. As always I have let it grow too long 

and have come in looking like a middle-aged professor 
of philosophy who is trying to look a little
like Roger Daltry, or if he’s lucky, Robert Plant—

a gesture, perhaps, toward the life I get to live
in the alternative plotline, the deleted scenes
hidden in my life’s Special Edition DVD.

* * *

Desire is always a hazardous thing
to reveal. That bold, slightly unfed look
you direct without intending to toward a stranger

you suddenly want—does she remind you of your mother,
or your first girlfriend, or does she represent
the possibility of an alternate life,

one very much like this one in all the ways that matter,
but deeper, more pure?—either risks breaking apart
the social fabric, or else, if only we could see it, 

it is the very glue that binds the social fabric 
together. Thread being, perhaps, in this context,
a slightly more appropriate metaphor than glue. 

* * *

Never having been to the Virgin Islands,
having been twenty-one, having experienced 
unfulfilled longing, never having been a woman,

I am able partly, but only partly,
to imagine what she is feeling, as she 
herself, perhaps, is forced in large part to imagine 

the things her younger self used to feel—
memory being, according to its very nature, 
fragmented and incomplete, edited 

very much in the way that film is put together:
jump cuts, dissolves, montages, eyeline matching, 
flashbacks and flash-forwards, all to tell the story.

Hence the tearstained and wistful delicious twin pleasures 
of imagining and remembering, the flickering beam 
of light emanating from somewhere behind you

and the shadows it gives life to, the murmur of the huddled 
breathing bodies all around you, the encompassing dark
that inhales and embraces, that exhales and resolves.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014


Troy Jollimore: “After O Brother Where Art Thou, a reporter asked the Coen Brothers what their next movie would be about, and one of them—I think it was Joel—said that it was about a barber who wanted to be a dry cleaner. Everyone laughed, assuming he was joking, but of course with The Man Who Wasn’t There it turned out that that was an entirely accurate, if slightly misleading, plot summary. I find this film, about a man who resists his role as barber his entire life and then realizes, at the end, that in fact he is the barber, intensely moving and beautiful, not to mention unspeakably funny. Its hero, Ed Crane, is a man who has a vast number of things to say and who almost never speaks because he finds the language that was given him—the language that has been given to us—to be inadequate to the task. I suppose I think of poetry as an attempt to render language more adequate to the task of speaking about the ineffable things that our truest and deepest selves want to speak about. Anyway, the poem is, in essence, based on a true story; I did get a haircut recently.”

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