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The chances are very good that you are within a thousand yards of a man with a comb-over, and he may even be somewhere in your house. Here's Maine poet, Wesley McNair, with his commentary on these valorous attempts to disguise hair loss.


Hymn to the Comb-Over

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.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 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. Introduction copyright 2006 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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