ST Porawagamage

Pine Row Issue No. 7 Summer 2023 - Featured Poet

The Afterlife of Cut Hair

On the last day of middle school,

I wait for my turn at the barber, watching

his delicate hands cut a girl’s hair like he is

preparing salad for dinner—graceful brilliance

striking cut, click, cut, click. I wonder what

the hair feels to be cut-clicked from his hands.

We hack and rack, quell and fell, hew

and unselve the trees, Hopkins wailed

for the poplars in Binsey.1 Once I thought

the barbers sold cut hair to make

Bombay Muttai.2 So I kept a close eye

on them like a kingfisher, not pay to eat

my own hair. One day a kingfisher

sat by my pond and I hit him with a tennis ball

on the leg. Off-balance for a second, he then

arrowed past the trees. That week Kingfisher6

flew us to Chennai. When I asked what airplanes

had to do with kingfishers, they gave me a special

kids’ meal for free. It tasted like uprooted hair

poorly fried in a barber’s soothing gel.


1- See the poem “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. 

2- Bombay Muttai is a Sri Lankan variety of cotton candy. 

ST Porawagamage is a Sri Lankan poet who writes about the 2004 Tsunami, Sri Lankan Civil War, poverty, colonialism, among other things. His first manuscript of poems, Becoming Sam, is a postcolonial bildungsroman in verse. All the Salty Sand in Our Mouths, his second, is a child’s chronicle of the 2004 Tsunami. His poems have appeared in The Sunday Observer, Ceylon Daily News, Annasi & Kadalagotu, Stoneboat, Mantis, etc. and most recently accepted by The Bloodaxe Anthology of Sri Lankan Poetry.

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