Hair on Television ~ A Poem, by Wesley McNair

This morning’s headlines made me think of this wonderful poem by Maine’s Poet Laureate (and my brother) Wesley McNair. This is one of the many collected in his fine book from 1989, THE TOWN OF NO.




On the soap opera the doctor

explains to the young woman with cancer

that each day is beautiful.


Hair lifts from their heads

like clouds, like something to eat.


It is the hair of the married couple

getting in touch with their real feelings for the first

time on the talk show,


the hair of young people on the beach

drinking Cokes and falling in love.


And the man who took the laxative and waters his garden

next day with the hose wears the hair


so dark and wavy even his grandchildren are amazed,

and the woman who never dreamed tampons

could be so convenient wears it.


For the hair is changing people’s lives.

It is growing like wheat above the faces


of game show contestants opening the doors

of new convertibles, of prominent businessmen opening

their hearts to Christ, and it is growing


straight back from the foreheads of vitamin experts,

detergent and dog food experts

helping ordinary housewives discover


how to be healthier, get clothes cleaner

and serve dogs meals in the hair.


And over and over on television the housewives,

and the news teams bringing all the news faster

and faster, and the new breed of cops winning the fight


against crime are smiling, pleased to be at their best,

proud to be among the literally millions of Americans


everywhere who have tried the hair, compared the hair

and will never go back to life before the active,

the caring, the successful, the incredible hair.


-Wesley McNair, The Town of No (David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc., 1989)


Make it Stop ~ By Lindsay

Another wonderful writing response by Lindsay (Who are you, Lindsay? Where do you come from?), this one inspired by Daily Journal Prompt #207: “You’re shaking,” he said.


Shaking, like a leaf. Like a tree in a high wind. Her teeth chattering and her words all chopped and stuttered so that we could not at first make sense of what she was saying.

She was cold. To the touch. Her skin chilled and her lips blue. And she was crying cold tears. We covered her nakedness, wrapped her in blankets. I made her hot sweet tea which we fed to her on a teaspoon like she was an injured animal or a very small child.

She wanted to sleep. Her eyes were heavy and she kept drifting off, her head too great a weight for her neck so that she seemed to fall away from us. We slapped her face and called her name, called her back to where we were. She looked startled then, as if she had been woken from a deep dream and did not know us or what we were about.

‘Stay with us,’ we pleaded, though I was not sure that it was the right thing for her, was not sure our wanting her to stay wasn’t something quite desperately selfish.

We took turns in walking her from one end of the kitchen to the other, making a show of it all, supporting her weight and drawing her attention to what her feet were doing and not doing.

‘Just one more step, you can do it, just one more.’

But then there was always another step and another, and the effort it took was evident on her face – the effort to be still here, to be taking breaths and seeing the world lurching in and out of focus and always trying to make sense of what was going on and who we were and the noise we were making so that she could not drop into sleep again.

It was the third time she’d done this. She was determined. One day we would not be here, or not here in time. Then it would be over, for her and for us. I did not think that would be a bad day, not necessarily. I could see her face and how she would look, her eyes closed as if she was simply asleep and a softened smile on her lips and her whole body relaxed. It was not a picture that hurt to see, and yet here we were dragging her back into the world she wanted to leave behind and thinking it was the right thing to do, the only thing.

We had a cat when we were children and I recall it bringing small gifts to the back door for us. Dead mice with their glassy black eyes still wet, and rabbits with their necks warm and limp, and birds with their wings broken and dragging in the dirt. Once she caught a mole and the screaming of that dying creature brought us quickly to the back door. The cat had ripped open its stomach and its pink innards were a mess on the back step and it was crying in pain, a high-pitched squeal. My mother said it would be the kindest thing, to put that small mole out of its misery, and she handed me the spade.

‘Please. Make it quick. Don’t hold back. Hit it hard, with the flat of the blade. Hit it once and make it over. Please, make it stop.’

I did what my mother told me and it was quick and the mole instantly dead and no longer in pain. It makes me shudder to recall that child that was me battering the mole with the garden spade and my mother comforting me afterwards and telling me over and over that it was the kindest thing, really it was. And now here she was, in pain and wanting to let go and looking at me with that same look from way back when the cat gifted us a dying mole, and ‘Please,’ she says again, ‘please make it stop.’


→Thank you, Lindsay, for once again taking a few words and a photo and making it into something rich and artful. -PMc←