The Barber’s Itch: A Love Song To My Wife

These were the days of my beard in full, of me stroking it, of me scratching it, of me twisting it into ringlets with a finger. I loved even the gritty sprigs of it that overgrew the corners of my mouth. I chewed on them for distraction.  

“You can’t keep your hands off it,” you said.

I closed my eyes like blind Isaac and patted my goaty cheeks. “Esau? Is it you, Esau?”

The beard gave new joy after new joy.

On our family’s long trip north that summer, I read to you while you drove: Benjamin Harrison was the last of the bearded presidents. Beards are prohibited in most armies, encouraged in some navies. Did you know that it’s illegal for a boxer to have a beard? That Beard is the 607th most common surname in America? That Beardstown, Illinois is only 489 miles from Fearnot, Pennsylvania?  

And these facts I now confess to making up: my grandfather was not a bearded baby. The Barber’s Itch is not a lifelong skin condition appointed to men who shave their beards. Bearded dragons do not mate for life.

Though I do. And will. And as proof of that woolen mystery that you are the flesh of my flesh, my downy second skin, here was the last evening of the beard, when you went shopping and I shaved it away, stage by stage, chapter by chapter. Like snow thawing. Like clouds clearing. Like a river running backward to its beginning.

Bird Report

First of November. Rain, and suddenly all leaves stripped but for a few hangers-on. With the leaves gone, the birds at their tasks are visible the way we're visible in our homes through our windows or ants are visible in a formicarium. A blue jay hops from one low branch to another. A squirrel sits in a loaf. A host of juncos under the bare honeysuckle that had kept all their chittering private just a few days ago.