The Joy of Poetry



I get my hair cut at Walmart for two reasons: 1) I’m cheap, and 2) I have fascinating conversations with whoever happens to be my hairdresser.

At our local SmartStyle the turnover is high, I suspect because they work the women into the ground. This particular Tuesday there was someone new. Her name was emblazoned on a pin attached to her Just Do It T-shirt. Let’s call her Lynn.

She asked if I was off work, which is always an uncomfortable question for me to answer in that shop. I told her the truth, that I work from home for a magazine in Waco. Usually people ask me what I do for the magazine, and I answer, “Write and edit,” but Lynn didn’t ask. She just told me she wrote poetry.

Then while she cut my hair, she recited one of her poems.

She said it was influenced by a time when her son was little and had memorized all the names of the presidents. He said if he ever had a horse, he’d name it Coolidge. Because every kid wants to name his pet horse after good ol’ Calvin Coolidge, right?

The poem was about how her son was a horse, and she was a bird, and although they loved each other, they needed to go their separate ways — he’d graze in his pasture; she’d stick with her worms. (Yes, the word “worm” was in the poem, which thrilled me to no end.)

She said she hoped someday he might turn her poem into a song. It would make a good country tune—it had that kind of rhyme.

Then I got the rest of the story. She hadn’t talked to her son, who is 24, in a week. She couldn’t afford to keep bailing him out. He’s ADD and bipolar, especially in the morning. There was a truck she’d tried to give him that he refused and now he demanded she give it back. Girls love him.

Turns out she doesn’t even live here—she lives over an hour away. First she told me this was a working vacation. Then she told me she was hiding from him. Just for a week, she said.

She said she’s got a whole book of poems. She’s saving them for him.

I did not tell her I write poems too. I did not tell her I’ve written them about the hard things in my life, like during my mom’s last three years with cancer. I didn’t tell her I had a book about the joy of poetry releasing in three days. This was her day, her poem.

We think poetry is just for academic ivory towers. We think it’s only for men in tweed jackets or for women who never visit a hairstylist. But it’s also for people like Lynn, whose best idea for a vacation/hideaway is picking up a week’s worth of shifts at a Walmart salon in another town.

I wish I’d thought of something brilliant to say to her as I checked out, something to encourage her to keep the joy of poetry in her life, no matter what happens with her son, but all I could choke out was, “Take care.”

I said it twice.


(More at Tweetspeak, including a sample. Available at Amazon.)



  1. Lynn and you—a divine appointment.

    So excited for this book’s release! Off to order my copy right now!

  2. Oh, I’m glad to know someone else falls on the cheap haircut spectrum. Most folks swallow their tongues when I tell them that either my husband or my 12-year-old son cuts my hair. Wet. Hold a rule (or a stick). Cut straight across. And of course I buzz cut theirs every few weeks.

    All that aside, congrats on the release of your book! The timing is whizBang wonderful for me as I’m in desperate need of a joy jumpstart.

    And, what a powerful, yet everyday story you’ve shared in this piece.


  3. Megan – I love this. It speaks to my heart in so many ways. I think you gave Lynn a precious gift. You listened. I just finished reading A Listening Life. You did just what you should have done. It is a rare gift to have someone listen – just listen – to our story.
    I can’t wait to get ahold of your book. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  4. Fayma Drummond says

    Megan, you always have been and always will be one of a kind in my book. No pun intended on the use of the word “book.” I’ve not written a book, nor will I ever, but “in my book” is a phrase I’ve heard all my life. And I do have a book about you (and many other friends and family members) tucked away in my thoughts. But I’m getting off track. Your wonderful post about your salon experience screams “this is Megan.” You were so completely engaged in Lynn’s story that you did what you do. You stayed engaged with her and her story and ended the visit with probably the best thing that you could have said, “take care, take care.” By the way, I’m going to order your book as soon as I post this. I hope it doesn’t come before I get my income tax finished and sweet baby Llera’s afghan finished because it will be difficult for me to concentrate on deadlines when I have access to something I know I’m going to enjoy as much as I will your book. Llera’s due date is April 16. Love you.

  5. You wished you had something encouraging to say, but, as Linda already said, I think listening (without turning the conversation to yourself) is the best thing.

  6. What a potent appointment!—Joy in the air despite hardship. Your writing takes me right into the scene, and this story’s bound to stick, too. I salute your gift of listening well and letting the moment be hers. What could encourage anyone more than being heard and respected and cared about? Bet she’ll keep writing. Bet she smiled and smiled for the rest of her shift.

  7. Nancy Marie Davis says

    will look it up, sweetiepie.

  8. Big sigh and a tear here. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get a copy of your book to her and signed it, “Take care.” “Take care to keep the joy of poetry no matter what.”

  9. Vicki Stafford Bohls says

    Beautiful, Megan. And of course we all remember and love your mother.

  10. Jack Swanzy says

    I am reading and enjoying your book. Congratulations for putting it out here where we can submerge ourselves in it!

  11. Karen Poidevin says

    Megan, I almost think I met you in a class one time taught by Lianne Mercer. It was the comment about your mom that pricked my memory. I love what you have written, so heart felt, so attentive to another person’s moment of delight. Blessings on your book.
    Sincerely, Karen Poidevin

  12. Do you hear me cheering from WV? I just downloaded my kindle copy, gifted to me from Monica S., that generous girl. But I am holding out for an autographed copy :). Congratulations, I can’t wait to dig in!

  13. Heather Garcia says

    You always end so well! I read an article recently that was basically advice from a journalist to someone new in the field — kind of a “What I wish I had known” type of thing. My favorite part was when he talked about how he used to spend so much time worried about the hook at the beginning of the story when he should have been making a memorable ending. You’ve got that down to an art. (P.S. I miss Musings.)

    Congratulations on the book!

  14. What a wonderful listening heart you have.

  15. Sounds like a divine encounter to me.
    What a gift you gave to Lynn by not going all “professional poet” on her, but instead simply listening and affirming her.
    I also come away from encounters like that wishing I could have said more, maybe artfully fit in the four spiritual laws or quoted a verse from Isaiah. . . maybe that ‘s the way with the life of a sower.