2002 Graduate Poetry Winner
Julio, El Barbero
He fled Cuba in the Sixties to neighbor isle
Puerto Rico and became an estadista.
You canít blame him, argued my father,
a statehooder himself, against my claim:
He should shut up, support the cause
or leave. La estadidad is not an option.
The cause meant independence. I was fifteen,
disciplined by my heartís blind politics.
I bore the same style since six, when
a phonebook hoisted my face onto the mirror,
a few inches off Julioís effort.
Every month he asked me what I wanted
and I said the same thing,
my father next in turn for the chair
that had cradled him for thirty years.
At nine, I had memorized his story
of exile, the whisper of scissors
cutting air as he paced around me.
On Havana nights, he was a tenor.
Barber by day. Deacon on weekends.
It was hard, but we went on...
his nostalgia-thick breath collapsing
gradually into ruin. At thirteen,
I derailed our dialogue to baseball
but the off-season proved a problem.
He likes the Yankees, thatís no surprise.
In Puerto Rico he is choir director
of his church. Not the same thing
as a deacon or a tenor, he implies
in a blank stare towards the mirror.
I am older now, two phonebooks taller
than Julio, still an independentista
but understanding of the cause of others.
I am sorry for him, a life confined
to scissors whispers and remembrance.
He deserves to talk and I owe to listen,
to sit still as when his razor soothes me.
I should root for the Yankees so he can win one.
I lean back on the chair, familiar haven.
He speaks of mid-century hurricanes
striking Cuba. Shreds of hair slump
toward the ground, dispelled memories.
Kevin Gonzáles, winner of the 2002 Touchstone Graduate Contest for Poetry, is a student at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
All rights reserved. Copyright KSU Touchstone 2003
Last updated April 30, 2003