What a strange thing a beard is. How comes it to pass that numerous hairs grow from the flesh of a man’s face? And why should this necessarily be so? Dear Reader, do you know the answer? My True Love likes beards, but she never liked my beard, which always made me wonder how much she really likes beards after all. Some men’s beards are of a surprising color, have you ever noticed? While other men hardly have a beard at all, as can easily be discerned from the smoothness of their chins. I do not recommend wearing a turtle neck if one also wears a beard. The result is considerable itchiness and discomfort. I’m awfully glad that women do not have beards, for this would cause a great amount of confusion among our species. In this I find myself very much in agreement with that famous apothecary of Toledo who, as is well known, maintained that a bearded woman is perhaps not a woman at all, but another thing altogether, namely, that upon which a beard is by the natural order of things invariably observed to grow, that is to say, a billy-goat. My beard used to be of a light brown color, but now it is even lighter, if grey can truthfully be considered a light color and not, as Pliny the Elder asseverated, a slightly burnt absence. I sometimes consider shaving my beard in order to appear young again, but somehow I suspect this won’t work. So I haven’t tried. Does it feel funny to be kissed by someone with a beard? Does it not feel rather like being kissed by a beard instead of a person? Also: does it tickle? or does it scratch? I’ve investigated this question by kissing myself, but I’m always more aware of the taste of my own skin than of the feel of my own bewhiskered lips, if that makes any sense. The problem with a beard is you’re always getting droplets of milk caught in it.
Born in Austin, Texas, and raised in Boone, North Carolina, John Crutchfield is a writer and theatre artist now based in Berlin, Germany. His poems, essays, translations and reviews have appeared in a variety of journals, including *Shenandoah*, *Seneca Review*, *Southern Review*, *The Appalachian Journal*, and *Zone 3*. His one-man show, *The Songs of Robert*, won an award for Outstanding Solo Performance at the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival. He has also created and performed interdisciplinary work with X Factor Dance, Sans Pointe Dance, G. Alex and the Movement, Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, and Legacy Butoh. He has been Artist-In-Residence at the Djerassi Artists Foundation, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Association d’Art de La Napoule (France) and the Pädagogische Hochschule Karlsruhe (Germany). At present, he serves as Associate Artistic Director of The Magnetic Theatre, teaches creative writing and drama at the Free University of Berlin, and works freelance as a literary translator. More info at: johncrutchfield.com