Today’s poem is “The Last Shave” by Laura Bonazzoli. She is a freelance editor and writer living in Rockport, Maine. Her poetry has appeared in The Aurorean, Connecticut River Review, Frost Meadow Review, Reed Magazine, Steam Ticket, and many other journals, and in Balancing Act 2: An Anthology of Poetry by Fifty Maine Women from Littoral Books. She has also published short stories and creative nonfiction and is working on a novel.
She writes: “The incident captured in The Last Shave occurred two days before my brother Brian died of cancer in 2017. As my father proceeded step by tender step, it seemed that the four of us there in the hospital room became participants in a ritual of devotion. In working on the poem, my initial intention had been to honor my father's gift to his son. After multiple drafts, I realized that I had witnessed a mutual exchange of gifts--that Brian, too, had given the last gift he was capable of giving, his very body, in service to his father's love.”
The Last Shave
By Laura Bonazzoli
The nurse is young and female, so you,
Father, show her how it’s done. Now
begin, soak the cloth in hot water, drape it, steaming,
over your son’s beard from upper lip to neck. Now wait.
Doesn’t that feel good, you ask, and from his scorched
throat a grunt of pleasure, maybe bliss.
Now your sure hands lift the cloth, coax
the menthol cream over his neck, jaw, gaunt cheeks.
You wipe your hand, fingers, thumb. Pause.
Now you lift the razor.
Bound in foam the stubble stands resolute,
offering you, Father, the last gift of your son.
Your hand descends.
You stroke firmly, swiftly, rinse, stroke again,
draw back. Silently, you look. Nod.
One final stroke.
Now you set down the blade, wash his skin clean.
Try to sleep, you say.
His eyes close. As she goes out,
the nurse turns down the light. You sit.
In the darkened room, your empty hand rises.
Now falters. Now falls.
Poem Copyright © 2019 by Laura Bonazzoli.