Bismillah Barbers


is next door to Bismillah Butchers.
I do hope the barbers are not butchers
of people’s hair. They are near
the railway station, and I walk
past them frequently, on my way there.

I think of the well-known mondegreen
in “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen:
“He’s just a poor boy, from a poor family;
spare him his life, for his pork sausages”.
“Bismillah!” is also in Queen’s verse,
repeated, strongly; uttered as a curse,
reeking of sulphur and damnation.

I am no longer in need of the services
of Bismillah Barbers, but I do fantasise,
idly, about Bismillah Butchers:
how they are staffed by fiery fanatics,
seething to work their devilry upon
unsuspecting customers, who walk in,
innocently requesting half a pound
of their best pork sausages . . .

In reality, I am sure they are kindly
people, most attentive to my butchery
requirements; willing to spare me my life,
for my pork sausages. And, in any case,
if the wurst came to the worst,
and a need for redemption or purgation,
the main mosque is nearby, in a
convenient location.

As followers of this blog know by now, my favourite time for reading anthologies of poems is whilst relaxing in a warm bath.  It was during my bath time reading a couple of weeks ago that I came across an interesting poem by Christopher Reid called “The Café”.  I started musing about cafes and shops, and immediately thought of Bismillah Barbers and Bismillah Butchers.  I have often thought about writing about them, but it was only when I suddenly remembered the misheard lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” that I realised I could concoct a poem that linked the two factors together.

I hasten to add, in these times of “Islamophobia”, that the poem is intended to be a mildly amusing entertainment, and the activities described in the penultimate verse are merely part of the droll fantasy.


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