Maggie Butt

The Ballad of Kurt Engler, Master Hairdresser.

His salon was a trip abroad
a place of flirty fun
till local lads broke windows
and painted “Go Home Hun.”

Then Special branch came calling
(and didn’t want a trim)
they scrutinised his papers
before arresting him.

They wouldn’t let him call at home
to tell his wife and son
but took him up the Pally,
imprisonment begun.

He set up in the barber’s shop
swept up beneath the chair
and fashioned wigs for sale outside
from other prisoners’ hair.

Like an old barber-surgeon
he pulled their teeth as well,
filled dental requisition slips
discovered he could sell

for quite a tidy profit
something to ease the pain,
for boredom and for loneliness
administered cocaine.

Until the army wondered why
he needed such a store,
extracted his supply chain
and said there’d be no more.

He found the artists’ studio
and showed a flair for paint,
his pictures sold like contraband
till guards made a complaint:

he painted future dog-fights
which Germans always won;
his canvases were gathered up.
No more Victorious Hun.

His missus sold the hairdresser’s
and made a little cash,
her letters and her visits stopped.
He worried for his stash.

So chose a moonless, rain-soaked night
when guards stayed by the fire,
threw doubled blanket out across
the walls of looped barbed wire,

rolled on his back to freedom
and stumbled to his feet,
hopped on a passing omnibus,
rode home to his own street.

Banged on the door and shouted
could see the lights inside
his wife just wouldn’t answer,
she ran upstairs to hide.

A neighbour came eventually
and told him what he feared:
she’d found a nice new English bloke,
“So go home Hun,” she jeered.

Now sodden and despairing
he caught the bus again
returned to Ally Pally gaol
through the alien rain.

The guardroom consternation brought
a glimmer to his eye.
He never told them how he’d left
and never told them why.