My grandmother was born in Brooklyn, but her mother was from Ireland, and so, my grandmother learned about certain things to watch for – including combs or bits of combs left in the road or on the sidewalk, even cheap blue plastic ones. Bad things happened to people who touched them, she told me, and I believed her.
I spent years assuming this was just a way to keep me from putting colorful things I found on sidewalks into my mouth – wise advice for any item found on the street – only to find, years later, that this, like my grandmother’s stories of the evil puka that made bad things happen in the kitchen, was a little bit of oral culture passed down through Brooklyn. I never heard the banshee part of the story until much later – I don’t know if my grandmother ever knew it – but the connection between things found in the road – including silver combs – and banshees and evil things of the night is strong indeed.
Which more or less led to this poem, The Silver Comb, which just appeared in Mythic Delirium this month. I don’t think my grandmother would have liked the ending, but perhaps you will.