Like Carl Sandburg’s Hair

Edward Jean Steichen, Carl Sandburg, photographic montage, 1936. © Joanna T. Steichen – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

I wish I had hair like Carl Sandburg,
silver and smooth, with a near-center part
from which would curl horns of cool
hirsute parentheses that would occasionally
encapsulate the brown and gold irises
of my poetic vision.

I wouldn’t like hair like Walt Whitman
or even Ezra Pound, though, all kind of
wind-wild and wiry. Sure, damned
arty-looking, best kept under wide-brimmed
slouches, but probably troublesome
containing beneath a baseball cap.

Robert Frost’s hair, silver like Carl’s
and mine, just seemed as weedy as
a New England pasture, unfettered by
the neighborly fence of brush or comb.
Emily’s, while smooth as a Berkshire pond,
never made it to silver.

I didn’t slick it back like Stafford when
I had enough to slick, nor even now when
it borders the vacant shores of Lake Roethke.
No, I want Carl’s hair with its quotation mark
cowlicks speaking louder than little cat feet,
as big-shouldered American as the prairie.

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2 thoughts on “Like Carl Sandburg’s Hair

  1. This is so beautifully written – I will never look at hair without thinking about writing. I am enjoying my read of Ted Kooser’s “The Poetry Home Repair Manual” to help improve my writing and your poem is an excellent example of Kooser’s emphasis on writing to enlarge another’s perspective. I have probably said this before but this poem elicits a repeat – your words and your creativity bring great joy to my life.

  2. In all my years of hairdressing, I have never quite heard hairstyles described in that way, and believe me, I’ve heard quite a few different terms. Ta for the smile! 😉

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