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SingeingJohn Levett
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The barber’s tubes and rubber bulbs,
their wheezing scents, asthmatic talcs,
have long since perished
with the rest of his tribal paraphernalia;
the Brylcreams set in misty jars
and the almost medieval singeing straws,
wax tapers with their red-hot buds
that, smoking, sealed the ends of hairs
and left the neck an acrid stem,
smart meat, a stook of tendons.
They don’t go in for singeing now,
hair-triggered, charred against the grain,
the kind of shock reserved for cancers
or to rustle the brain-cells of the clinically depressed;
but once its smell
hung over the entire country,
particularly the short-back-and-sides of Southern England,
and especially in the autumn in the shaved afternoons.
Some still believe it works
and some of those
itch to be able to prophesy its return,
that after the harvest, between smashed street lamps,
they might life up their heads and smell the stubble burn.

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London Review of Books,
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Letters

Vol. 11 No. 18 · 28 September 1989

John Levett (LRB, 17 August) might like to know that singeing of hair is still administered at Trumper’s, Curzon Street, London W1.

David Mills
London W1

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

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