Four Poems

by Danilo Machado


Untitled Haircut Poem

“Mira que si te quería fue por el pelo. Ahora que estás pelona ya no te quiero”

“Look, if I loved you it was for your hair. Now that you are hairless, I don’t love you anymore” 

— (in part, after Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940)


on the day I finally started this poem
the black-gloved barber in sunset park
tussled my hair with practicality, not affection

black gloves black blow dryer black 
brush black cape branded water 
spray with a skull on the black bottle


you would cape me in black plastic
tell me not to move

black cord and 
black hair 
on the kitchen floor

when we were done
I would say 
thank you, 

then, during my years of silence and 
summer city internships, I visited my first barber
that wasn’t you,

that wasn’t my father, 
took the subway somewhere 
I don’t remember


after, I started seeing Claude regularly at the stamford mall
I would come on mondays and tuesdays 
when then haircuts were two dollars off

Claude (in graying curls) would ask 
what I was up to 
and every time in his chair  
I couldn’t help but think of 

the tenderness

the vulnerabilities,
of the queerness 
of the hand of another man 

and of how much I 
(and we)
have internalized 

that we’re
self conscious
squirmish, practical 


I stopped seeing Claude 
when the treatment became my barber 
black hairs thin on white pillow cases

more recently, in my new borough 
I found your little shop, Ruthie, 
found it after a string of cheap cuts 

aggressively straight, 
and you (bandana clad) were blasting disco discs, 
cards and rainbow flag collaged 

around the wooden mirror of your single chair, 
pictures of your mother 
framed with blue painter’s tape

two on the sides and one on top
remember you number: twenty-one
for the next time you come in 

don’t move
keep your head straight, you said, 
even if you’re not straight


that one morning, Ruthie’s hours did not 
align with mine and I needed a trim:
I had been growing it out, you see, 
It was longer than it had ever been 

and that morning, you offered your single-battery trimmer
and your tender hands, improvising 
new motions 

with your black-polished fingers, 
fingers which moved closer,
then apart 

as black hair 
gradually cascaded onto our 
shared, white sink

in vision


it’s the last few days of the year and we’re in new hampshire the four of us
and the dog my dad has figured out how to connect the sony camcorder to the tv in the
hotel room
images of colombia flash and impulsively i’m taking pictures on
my phone  

scenes somewhere between
 recognizable and not pass at regular speed
for bits, they go faster forward

it’s my seventh birthday you can see my grandmother in the background cutting
cake it’s my last one in medellin does it matter that i don’t know that? does it
matter that i’m telling you now? i’m trying to remember our consensus
about the  accuracy of the date stamp the screen does it matter
if it’s lying?


still i keep returning to this frame one of a handful captured from cassette
mediation meditation photos of moving photos made
still how     

does an image change when it is not looked at for years?
how does it transform cropped and blurred badly

in that frame i’m wearing what i want to see as a dress
red checker white collar what i want to read as queerness what does it mean to
choke a color slide what are we expecting
our own body’s testimony confession


enough of my body my body has been turned into legal document why do
you write so much about motion if you’re only going to return going to move
but backwards

you’ve always been more myopic than your doctors have suggested wasn’t
this supposed to be about the heart? wasn’t it supposed to be about finding yourself

there i am hands together smiling  
in a dress and gripping too hard from the present
to a queerness without language 


this morning hadn’t slept all the way through  woke later than i wanted
and you patient without language flipped dipped
eggy slices of brioche until brown served syruped and with blueberries pink-plated
unphotographed and without language reheated french press brew
from yesterday without asking poured knew how
much sugar milk without telling 

i tease your verbose but i’ve  learned so much about what leading not with words looks like how it feels how it’s not keeping but giving


we’re in the hotel room in
new hampshire and my 
dad has the Sony re
corder plugged in
to the tele vision 
flashing im
ages past

listen, i’m over poems about baristas

but they 
were skin like my spanish latte and
backwards atari cap

a body radiating 
kind queerness 
attraction felt solely affirming

radiating, kind queerness 
light like frother functions, 

this, I think, is part of 
what the work is:
the work of unlearning, of finding ways to be 

very tender
, of indulging silly stanzas 
written standing up 

because there’s 
nowhere else
  with an outlet


brash, bawdy bodies—
voices too loud; masculinities
you insist on a distance that’s irrelevant


your quiet body 
can still be seen loudly, threatening;

overthinking translates to many 
small bodily indications

discomfort and disgust 
at bodies that are actually you, too 

and the real tragedy is when you slowly realize 
that politeness does not protect you 
that your proclivity to respectable spaces 
and (shit!) to words like proclivity 
is less healthy than you think

remember to be easy on yourself
because some of your anxieties 
don’t belong to you 
you don’t have to claim them 


Writer’s BIO:

Danilo Machado is a queer undocumented poet and curator born in Medellín, Colombia and currently living in Brooklyn, New York. An honors graduate of the University of Connecticut, his poetry and criticism has been featured in The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, Long River Review, Connecticut Review, Bushwick Daily, and ArtCritical, among other publications. Danilo has performed his work at the Brooklyn Museum, Starr Bar, 61 Local, and Jenkins Johnson Gallery. Danilo is the curator of the forthcoming exhibition “Otherwise Obscured: Erasure in Body and Text,” on view at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, Connecticut from September 2019 to January 2020.