If it’s Yuletide in the New World,
then what bellies up to the manger
are rattler, gator, buzzard. Just as a
wooden snake in a basket of toys
at this barber shop I bring the boys
seems to hiss “…es su casa,”
I take the part of the friendly stranger
only where hair is imperiled.

Festive lights are strung up, arranged
around amusing headlines on the wall:
rosenbergs die (scissors flashing);
bin laden killed (clippers gnashing)
and that’s not all (no, that’s not all…)
man in tx jail cell found hanged.


Horsemen of upcountry limestone,
Quahadis rode through sumac
that tore at the clothes and the flesh,
hunters to the bone.
Never touched a hair on the head
of their own or adopted child, fed
on half-digested sweet milk fresh
from a bison calf’s slit stomach.

They didn’t make laws, weren’t a nation.
They had, all told, a common tongue.
They snuffed out Rachel Plummer’s infant
(nursing was lost time); in that instant
she turned savage on her captors, won
unwittingly their admiration.


Corpses frightened Mary Rowlandson.
Yet “I must and could ly down,” she’d write,
“by my dead Babe, side by side all the night,”
in the wigwam, weekuwom, wiquoam
which the child departed “like a lamb.”
Though one bullet stitched both, yes,
she “left that Child in the Wilderness…
and myself in this Wilderness-condition.”

Sold for gunpowder under the cones
and needles of New England tinder;
ate an unborn fawn: “so tender,
that one might eat the bones
as well as the flesh.” Gentleness (I know)
is learned. And unlearned also.


Now the lines of his skull appear,
the hair fallen on the floor
(grown for the better part
—a thousand pardons—of a year
and as leonine as a roar;
a first attempt at body art,
a shine like a bubinga drum shell,
or the Earth Ride cymbal

now offered up as casually
as that head from Monkey Slough
mounted over the W.C.).
And as if it wasn’t enough,
the aeolian origins of loess,
the ground a leonine mess.


It’s Yuletide in the New World,
and the metallurgical fur of tinsel
warms the atmosphere;
the Crèche with its inlaid Pearl
canceling the blood on the lintel,
against long odds, will appear
as long as mothers house
golden apples in pine boughs.

And as if it wasn’t enough,
the basket of toys yields a tortoise
that crawls away on its cutlery
much like the roughest of rough
drafts of our own migrant house,
sheetrock bunker plus scullery.


And as if it wasn’t enough,
hair fallen from the clipper’s tines
might have been as rough
as the heaps left behind
of a herd, shorn. Or a horde,
advertising his assent
to the life of the horse and sword,
and to go wherever they went.

Buzz Cut 10, Bald Fade 16.
Fluffs the nape, dabs with the shaver,
underplays it as a “trim.”
It’s as if—the works of time undone—
the mirror, held up to him,
shows his moonface smaller, graver.

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply-reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish everyday at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Ad Policy