The American Journal of Poetry
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Lola Haskins

The Wig-Dusting Hole


A smooth-finished passage into the ingle hides, head-high, behind a carved cover.  Lice and other biting creatures infested wigs in those days, the more vain the man, the bigger-- and more plaguey-- the wig he put on his head.  Lice were not, of course, acceptable, so enter cyanide.  But the gentry would rid themselves of both, so a servant would grind the poison to powder and spread it thickly then put a stick inside a wig, and open the dusting hole.  Averting his face, he'd shake his burden until both dead lice and cyanide flew, or so he was  told, into the fire and up the chimney.  No one complained when the servants got sick.  No one sighed when they vanished.




LOLA HASKINS has published 12 books of poetry and three of prose. She was recently named Honorary Chancellor of the Florida State Poets Association. Among her other honors are the Iowa Poetry Prize, two NEAs, two Florida Book Awards, four Florida state arts fellowships, and the Emily Dickinson prize from the Poetry Society of America. Her website is



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