Paul Henry’s poem describes a landmark moment in a parental relationship.

It comes from an engaging volume, Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (Simon and Schuster, paperback £9.99). The anthology’s novel design also offers the thoughts of the 100 women who have chosen the words that move them.

Paul Henry’s poem is the playwright Stephanie Dale’s choice. She says of it: “It effortlessly captures the most joyful rite of passage, and equally heart-breaking moment, when a dependent child becomes an independent boy.”


Silent as cut hair falling

and elevated by cushions

in the barber’s rotating chair

this seven-year-old begins to see

a different boy in the mirror,

glances up, suspiciously,

like a painter checking for symmetry.

The scissors round a bend

Behind a blushing ear.


And when the crime’s done,

when the sun lies in its ashes,

a new child rises

out of the blond, unswept curls,

the suddenly serious chair

that last year was a roundabout.


All the way back to the car

a stranger picks himself out

in a glass-veiled identity parade.


Turning  a corner

his hand slips from mine

like a final, forgotten strand

snipped from its lock.