One way we play is to talk about the little consternations of life and befriend them, allow ourselves a little amusement at our own minor predicaments. Carl Little brings us the pocket comb, that—can we call it an instrument?—we misplace, take for granted, never find when we want it, or discover fallen or left somewhere and wonder if it’s safe to use. Carl Little plays with language too, mentioning its teeth and tiny music—I can almost hear one wrapped in cellophane and getting hummed into. And there are its companions—Chapstick, pen, scribbled notes. Maybe one of the functions of such play is to keep us grounded, in touch with the little things we share as fellow humans. One such shared experience for many of us is that reaching between the cushions of a couch or between the seats of a car in search of a comb or key or lost childhood toy.

And along with Carl Little’s words there is Daniel Minter’s Small Comb, (woodblock print, A.P., 9 x 6.5 in., courtesy the artist and Cove Street Arts) that suddenly makes this familiar object totally new.

Carl Little’s poetry has appeared most recently in the Republican JournalThe Lowell Review, and Maine Sunday Telegram. His poem “Yours” was featured in the Poets Corner’s “Love Letters” reading in February. Little is the author of monographs on Dahlov Ipcar, and many other artists. He and his brother David’s Art of Penobscot Bay, is forthcoming from Islandport Press. In 2021, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation awarded Little a Lifetime Achievement Award for his art writing.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ poetry editor.



Pocket Comb


They slip out when

my hearing aids are off and fall

between seats of Subaru

or to carpet or ground,

soundless, so many


lost over the years, small harmless

hair accessory and companion,

thin teeth that make

tiny music when fingered,

color of licorice or tar,


a couple of dollars at the pharmacy

adding up to maybe

a hundred smackeroos,

each time leaving me empty-handed

in my digging around among


chapstick, a pen, illegible notes,

needing the comb to tame what little

remains, maybe add water

to help keep the flaring hair

in place.


Oh, friend, farewell!

May someone find you and need you.


Image at top: Daniel Minter, Small Comb, woodblock print, 9 x 6.5 in.