Hazel-brown and soft as flannel,
with two rounded peaks for its crown,
as if they'd once been mountains
worn down, buffed clean
by a thousand years of passing clouds.
A man dwells beneath his hat.
Or hides. Bold thoughts erupt,
and notions too pale and evanescent
to be born out of doors
without a hat's modest shelter.
But as a boy, I knew none of that.
All I understood was my father's fond
coffee-colored eyes gazing out
from beneath that sweeping brim,
arriving home from work, an October evening,
and me racing up, encompassed
in his woolen arms, a wet kiss to greet him.
Fawn-brown, with clay-colored ribbon
girding the crown - how long did it sit
going ash-gray with gathered dust,
abandoned on the top shelf of the closet?
Mother had given away his suits, his shoes,
his fishing gear and cameras
in the year since he died. But not this.
I never questioned why. Though once, in secret,
climbed on a kitchen stool
and retrieved it from its perch.
Light yet substantial, it felt
like I was holding an empty bird's nest,
a bowl brimming with smoke.
Before the bathroom mirror,
I placed it on my head.
The room went dark -
barely a nose or a cheekbone visible
beneath its capacious dome.
I slid it back until I could peer out
from the hat's soft shadow,
inspected my profile, right and left,
in the dim reflection
and imagined how much I'd have to grow
to satisfy that emptiness.
I wear one today -
a sparrow-brown fur-felt fedora.
In the morning's quick
last-check appraisal before the mirror,
before dashing out for work, I adjust
the arc of the brim, the angle of its set.
I like the way it looks on me.
I don't believe I've filled it yet.