A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Eric Roy

It’s Okay To Have Long Hair Long After Middle Age



Sometimes a baby is born not just with a full head of hair
but perfectly styled too. In fact, many popular hairstyles
throughout time were introduced to the world in this manner:
the Pompadour, the Beehive, the Chelsea-cut, and the Duck’s Ass
all originated in utero, but most of the time babies are born
with little or no hair and spend their lives fretting about the fact
to some degree. Premature baldness in males and females
is actually a sign of evolution. Also, sometime in the not-so-distant
future, everyone will be able to have hair anywhere they like
thanks to advances in technology and tomfoolery.
Bolts of blond lightning, blue afro mohawks, leopard spots, zebra stripes
multi-colored pencil-troll coifs on shoulders, smalls of back—
it’s going to be a goddamned frigging Dr. Seuss movie 24-7-365
once that bridge is crossed, so no, do not feel bad about wearing your hair long
long after middle age, it’s not like anyone knows what’s best anyway,
even your parents. Especially your parents. Remember when
your mother would yell at you to Put down the cupcake!
You’ll ruin your appetite! But you didn’t put down the cupcake
or you did, but you snuck it back out of the garbage minutes later—
did that spoil your appetite? Absolutely not. 
Even eating garbage did not spoil your oft-considered appetite. 
You ate the corn, the mac-n-cheese, and the ham steak in rapid succession
all the while thinking, Liars. But it got your muster up
to finally tell her you wanted to grow your hair out long
and she lied to you again, said long hair causes boys to lose theirs
faster than a decomposing skull and you were frightened
for your head until you realized she also said you were allergic
not just to nuts, but marijuana and parachute pants.
Sort of overdid it there, but you understood she was only looking out for you
and you inherited this from your mother also—her good will
in addition to her good hair, and now, when you walk past
the barbershop you feel terrible.  Not terrible like when security
at the airport began parting your ponytail and you audibly said, Hairbomb
and got detained, but still…the barber standing in there alone.
Waiting like the newspaper. Today you decide to walk in, and he looks at you
like he’s a famous starving artist out of his mind on glue
and you’re a huge blank canvass with arms and legs and hair and a six-pack
of paint in each hand. It’s palpable, oh yeah. You can see the black combs
trilling in their blue water, little comb-hands cupped to the glass
of the canister trying to see if you are real. You’re more than real.
You are a middle-aged gentleman with long hair in a barbershop
and it’s time to do what you’ve come here to do. What did you come here to do?
Spread love. Not be afraid to go anywhere, do anything.
See things from every side and come out unscathed, or, if scathed,
in a way both beautiful and mutual. What can I do for you today?
says the barber. Just a shave, you reply. And without another word
he cracks his towel, wipes down the single chair in the middle of the room
and gestures for you to take a seat.








I don’t recall Uziel Gal or Gandhi,
Kalashnikov or Kennedy, Neil Armstrong on the moon.
When I picture a man,
I hear James Brown with his Fabulous Flames
pleading, “Please, please, please,”
over a montage of 63-year-old Edward Smith making urgent love
to 700 cars, several helicopters
and one woman in his life.

If you asked me, What’s it like to be a man?
I’d cue up the YouTube video of Creepy Guy and Vacuum.
Without the thigh-high stockings, matching coral bra and panties,
he looks bookish, like a poet—beard, balding, bespectacled,
a little paunch—everyman, he’s one of us,
except here he is in lingerie
talking rapey to a Shop-Vac with a smiley face painted on it
taking its sucking snout
raking it over his crotch
frozen in mid-thrust
until, laughter fading into disgust,
we watch it one last time.

There’s also the ubiquitous unseen picture of a man
standing alone atop a bloody hill of dead or dying soldiers,
just a pair of shredded camo pants below his bare chest
slick and tan as an axe handle,
fallen comrade’s spent machine gun cooling in his hands
but that seems less and less like it ever happened now.

Now that black and white photo
of the two old old dudes naked on the pier? One staring
out into the horizon waiting for his ship to come
sinking in, while the other man lays down in his lap and takes him
dutifully in his mouth?
That’s happening right now.
I bet he’s thinking, Judas did his job.
I bet he’s thinking, Superman or Schopenhauer
would have held the ball for Charlie Brown.
I bet he’s thinking, Man.

Not much for keepsakes, but one thing I have kept over the years is my "Houston Rockets Western Conference Champions" t-shirt my father got for me after seeing game 5 of the NBA finals in '86 at the Summit (now reverend Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church). It was the brawl game where Ralph Sampson went after Jerry Sichting, but all I remember was an old dude next to us hurling his full soft drink at Danny Ainge and it covering the floor with ice when it missed his face by an inch. Cops surrounded the court as the crew cleaned up the floor. I still wear that shirt. I'll have to retire it someday. 

Eric Roy was born in Houston but currently lives in Brooklyn, NY where he gets paid to watch the fire. Recent poetry of his appears in Green Mountains Review, Crab Creek Review, Blueline, the Fiddlehead, the New York Quarterly, and elsewhere.