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Anne Whitehouse

DIMITRI’S BARBER SHOP

En barberstue by Harald Schiødte

The gray air was pearly with moisture
that April afternoon in New York City.

Waxy white blooms of saucer-cup magnolias
drifted above dirty Broadway medians.

Some of the shops along the avenue
had opened their doors to welcome spring.

A red-white-and blue-striped pole
announced Dimitri’s Barber Shop.

Behind the plate glass window,
Dimitri played his clarinet. Seeing us,

he welcomed us into his empty shop.
“Now I play for you,” he said,

“a folk melody from Macedonia.
A shepherd climbs a mountain with his sheep.”

The haunting melody was in a minor scale.
We heard ascending footsteps, moaning winds.

The next song was about a young man
and his uncle, both in love with a gypsy girl.

Melodies alternated in high and low registers,
as if the music were in conversation with itself.

There was weeping when the gypsy spurned the men,
and two skipped notes when she ran away.

Dimitri grew silent and lowered his instrument.
“I hope I made you happy,” he said.

That was forty years ago. Dimitri and his shop
are gone, but not the memory of his sad songs

that left us feeling as if we’d gone somewhere,
and the saucer-cup magnolias still bloom every year.

 

About the writer:
Anne Whitehouse’s poetry and prose has appeared in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. Her newest poetry collection is Steady (Dos Madres Press, 2023).

Image: En barberstue by Harald Schiødte (1852-1924). Oil on canvas. 26.3 x 17.3 inches. Uncertain date between 1870 & 1924. Public domain.

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