Resources for Loss

"Shaving" by Richard Blanco, contributed by Wesley Wang (2023)

Shaving / Richard Blanco 

I am not shaving, I’m writing about it.
And I conjure the most elaborate idea—
how my beard is a creation of silent labor
like ocean steam rising to form clouds,
or the bloom of spiderwebs each morning;
the discrete mystery of how whiskers grow,
like the drink roses take from the vase,
or the fall of fresh rain, becoming
a river, and then rain again, so silently.
I think of all these slow and silent forces
and how quietly my father’s life passed us by.

I think of those mornings, when I am shaving,
and remember him in a masquerade of foam, then,
as if it was his beard I took the blade to,
the memory of him in tiny snips of black whiskers
swirling in the drain—dead pieces of the self
from the face that never taught me how to shave.
His legacy of whiskers that grow like black seeds
sown over my cheek and chin, my own flesh.

I am not shaving, but I will tell you about the mornings
with a full beard and the blade in my hand,
when my eyes don’t recognize themselves
in a mirror echoed with a hundred faces
I have washed and shaved—it is in that split second,
when perhaps the roses drink and the clouds form,
when perhaps the spider spins and rain transforms,
that I most understand the invisibility of life
and the intensity of vanishing, like steam
at the slick edges of the mirror, without a trace.

This poem was written by Blanco partially in tribute to his father. I actually found it during my AP Literature final, where it was a passage we had to answer questions about. Though I usually skim over such poems, this poignant reflection on the invisibility of time, loss, and change really stuck with me. As Blanco describes how whiskers grow, roses take in water, and water becomes rain, he compares these seemingly unnoticed acts with how unappreciated his father's life was. Blanco uses the metaphor of shaving to compare it to his father's loss — just like how he grew a legacy of whiskers, his legacy only became apparent once he lost them so suddenly. I think this piece fits in the "Acknowledging Loss" section well, as the narrator first realizes the beauty of the invisibility of life, and comes to appreciate it through the metaphor of shaving.

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