(for my grandmother)

I used his razor once;
Aged fifteen, face fluff-haired,
I locked the bathroom door.
I soaped my brown boy’s face
And held the loaded tool.
I recalled how he shaved,
Pillow-propped up in bed:
The bed in the parlour
His sunk shoulders towelled,
His brush tickled the soap,
Until his Auschwitz face
Had a beard of snow;
I held the square mirror.
The razor ploughed and rasped,
His hand trembling slightly
And he always shaved twice.
Sometimes, he nicked his neck,
Wrinkled as a turkey’s,
And I watched his blood come.
It always made him smile;
And cigarette paper
Blotted dry the blemish.
The ritual over
He swilled clean his smooth face:
Hair, like iron filings,
Tide-marking the white bowl.
That first time, when I shaved ,
Afraid of the new blade,
I removed more than hair:
As downy as a girl’s.
For I knew, as I worked,
My hand trembling slightly,
I was shaving away
The softness of boyhood;
I would leave the bathroom
Feeling more like a man.
And my reflection smiled
When the blade caught my skin:
For from my snow beard
I watched adult blood come.

Peter Thabit Jones © 2016

Published in VISITORS by Peter Thabit Jones, 1986