Winter cloud banks high over the flats.
A plate-glass sunlight lances the cold;
the last of autumn’s carriers packs and shifts
the length of the street
and in the hairdresser’s on the rise
Jitka goes about her work with Circean efficiency.
Dark-haired witch of Mánesova Street.
A glance in her mirror can trap men’s souls.
She catches my eye. Straightaway
I confound her, projecting in her place
roseate Mr Bebbington, barber of my youth
joking with his adult clientele
as spasming clippers make eight-year-old me laugh out loud.
It’s ineffectual. Jitka eschews electronica.
Hers are the blackened steel shears.
Hers are the ways of the terrifying spider.
I stifle the memory. She wants to know
if everything is satisfactory. It’s not. I say it is.
And quickly pay. And out into the chill Vinohrady air,
Don’t look back. She’s there triumphant.
Gloating over the cutting-room floor.
Furring her widow’s nest with the last of me.