Friedman’s tongue-in-cheek explaination of how he wrote a poem

As part of The Equinox’s National Poetry Month celebration, Keene State College English professor Jeff Friedman has provided his poem “Hole in My Head.” 

Friedman has published six poetry collections, including “Pretenders” (2014), “Working in Flour” (2011) and “Black Threads” (2008). His works have been featured in publications such as American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Hotel Amerika, The New Bloomsbury of American Jewish Poets, Smokelong Quarterly and The New Republic. 

Friedman has also won numerous awards for his work, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship. Friedman’s translation of “Memorials” by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink / Dialogos in August 2014. 

Read “Hole in My Head” below: 



by Jeff Friedman

There’s a hole in my head the size of a half dollar—and who knows how deep? The surgeon advised me to leave the wound open, because, she said, it would heal faster, but it’s already been two years. When I go out, birds plunge at my bright dome. I swing my arms to keep them away, but some still land and dip their beaks into the hole as if searching for insects or worms. Something must scare them because they take off quickly. I clean out the hole with a damp piece of cloth and find leaves, stray hairs, pebbles, coins, blessings and aphorisms. For a while I wore a large bandage over the hole, but then my head would swell as if it were filling up with fluid. When I’d slowly remove the bandage, thoughts shot out and showered through the air like glitter. Always, a few broken thoughts would be stuck to the bandage. Each day, I stare into the mirror and hold a mirror over my head to get a good look inside the hole. I see some creature deep below, turning over to show its orange belly, and numerous clichés bobbing near the surface. When I shift the mirror, my head disappears, and only the hole remains.


Friedman says of how he came to writing “Hole in My Head,” “The day after the fall term began at the small state college where I teach, I had surgery to remove a cancerous growth from the top of my head. The surgeon left a hole a little larger than the size of a quarter, in the shape of a small volcano crater.”

Friedman continued, “A surgeon with great confidence, she had initially offered to do the surgery while I was in class if I would agree to remain seated and also sign a waiver of liability. As a dedicated professor, I considered allowing her to do this, but then rejected the idea because I was worried that some of the more sheltered freshmen wouldn’t appreciate the real-life experience and might take it out in my evaluations.”

“I filled the hole in with liquid silicone and covered that with a little liquid paper, and then topped it all off with my purple cap that is also bug resistant. Unfortunately, despite silicone’s resistance to heat, the whole damn thing melted leaving me with a gooey mess under my hat. Next, I sanded it down and painted the hole flesh tone and again covered it with a hat, but it buckled, and I was again left with my small crater,” Friedman said. 

According to Friedman, “I considered placing a fancy marble in the hole and going hatless, but I was too insecure. Day after day, I wore a purple hat to class. After a few weeks, the students began clamoring for me to take the hat off. At first I said ‘no,’ but then it dawned on me there was a buck to be made. So one overcast Wednesday in New Hampshire, I settled into my easy chair in front of the class and told the students that for 20 bucks apiece, each could take off my hat and stare straight into the hole in my skull, that if they looked deeply they might even find the key to getting an ‘A’ in the course. I never anticipated so many of them not only buying into it, but coming back as many as 10 times—200 bucks.”

“I continued this for the rest of the term and for once, I actually got paid a decent salary for teaching. I would continue this same money-making venture next term, but the hole closed up, and the scar is barely visible. I wrote ‘A Hole in My Head,’ because I knew no one would believe the story of how I really dealt with the hole in my head,” Friedman said. 

To learn more about Friedman or to check out more of his poems, visit Friedman’s website at


“Hole in My Head” first appeared in Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.


Tom Benoit can be contacted at:

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