Hymn to the Comb-Over

By Wesley McNair b. 1941 Wesley McNair
How the thickest of them erupt just   
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff   
no wind can move them.   Let us praise them   
in all of their varieties, some skinny   
as the bands of headphones, some rising   
from a part that extends halfway around   
the head, others four or five strings   
stretched so taut the scalp resembles   
a musical instrument.   Let us praise the sprays   
that hold them, and the combs that coax   
such abundance to the front of the head   
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget   
the back.   And let us celebrate the combers,   
who address the old sorrow of time’s passing   
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness   
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful   
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,   
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all   
in subways, offices, and malls across America.

Poem copyright © 2006 by Wesley McNair. Reprinted from “The Ghosts of You and Me,” published by David R. Godine, 2006, by permission of the author.

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Poet Wesley McNair b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Midlife, Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

 Wesley  McNair


Often referred to as “a poet of place,” Wesley McNair captures the ordinary lives of northern New Englanders while writing about family conflict and other autobiographical subjects. His poems often explore American dreams interwoven with family drama and public culture. A New Hampshire native who has lived for many years in Mercer, Maine, McNair has authored nineteen books, nine of which are collections of poetry, including The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Midlife, Gender & Sexuality, Living, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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