Sweeney Todd
by Finola Scott

Tell me again, how long
are your holidays? Eyes narrowed
the top stylist binds me in neon plastic.
You teachers don’t know how lucky you are. 

Cloaked, I’m gagged. He’s wielding scissors
so I smile. Water trickles between cape and skin.
You want short? Easy to manage at the beach?
Again I smile, desperate to please.

The sharp teeth of his steel comb bite
my raw scalp. I flinch. Is there a problem?
My face sore from grinning, I shake
my head. Cocks crow.

Following orders, I remove earrings, glasses.
In the mirror, I make out fuzzy balletic moves,
hear helicopter blades chop and crop.
Wet hair rains, the floor’s matted bristles.

Matador, he flourishes away my cape. I sense
an open mouthed audience. Sight restored,
I don’t recognise the prison-shorn head facing me.
Short enough? he smirks.

PHOTO: Johnny Depp as the title character in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This writing prompt made me remember the spiteful treatment at a top hairdresser’s hands. I tried to capture the vulnerability we feel when we are forced to trust others’ expertise. The poem hinges on the fact  that the hairdresser, faced with a hot summer of nonstop work, is envious of the teacher, who is at the start of  a seven-week vacation. In the Grimms’ fairytale, the golden-haired Rapunzel is imprisoned in a high tower, but she is able to unbraid her hair and lower it down to the ground to allow her capturer, a wicked witch, to climb up. A prince wandering in the forest sees this and soon Rapunzel is letting her hair down so he can come up too !  Her long hair gave her freedom and power.  When her hair actions are discovered by the witch, her hair is cut off is cut off she is banished & defenceless. My sense of self was destroyed when my hair was brutally shorn. I was defenceless against the stylist’s attack. I was not free be my relaxed self and socialise in bars, clubs, and beaches. Instead, I was banished for the summer to lonely beaches and walks on empty moors. Men looked askance at me, and I was a social outcast. I feel we are all at the mercy of hairdressers who can be kind fairy godmothers transforming us into beauties or wicked witches destroying our lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Finola Scott‘s poetry and short stories are widely published. Now retired, she enjoys the lively literary scene in Glasgow, Scotland, where she is proud to be a slam-winning granny. She is currently being mentored on the Clydebuilt Scheme by Makar Liz Lochead.