TRYING ON HATS
My mother and I would try on hats at a little Hat Shoppe
in one of the towns we lived in. (Long Beach, I think.)
A narrow little shop squeezed in between two others.
The hats cost only a dollar—maybe two—grown-up hats
with turned-down brims, some with veils, like the mystery-
hats sophisticated ladies wore in movies. We would
finally buy one apiece and saunter out on the sidewalk,
feeling somehow new to ourselves, changed by the wearing
of a hat—hers with a sassy brim—mine with a veil.
(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2012)
WHEN SHE POSED
After Evening Appearance, 1931 by James VanDerZee
How do you like your lady,
all spiffed up for you
in her red fox fur and cloche hat—
one bare arm stretched out along the edge
of a shiny table.
How do you like her pose, her legs
silk-stockinged and seductively crossed.
How do you like her almost smile
as if she cannot feel a strap
slip down her other arm—
She wets her lips for you
so you can wonder at her kiss,
but she has no kiss for you.
She wouldn’t want to smear her mouth.
How soft the light upon her
in this room—where she is young—
where time holds its breath
so she can become this photograph.
Lady in white hat. Pearls.
White lace collar at her neck.
Menu held in two jeweled hands.
She talks to one side—then another
to her companions. Looks back
at her menu—can’t
decide—turns the pages
back and forth—reads it all. The
window behind her holds her
image, her white hat bobbing
in the fascinated dark.
Finally, she decides, puts
the menu aside, and, sighing,
pats the edge of the table,
ADMIRER, ROSE, AND RAIN:
She is bending to smell a rose.
Will it allow her nearness?
Which is the most beautiful
to any admirer—
self to self—
or rose to rose?
Does the rose open fully?
Do her eyes close?
Will it dare to rain
and ruin her hat—fill the rose
with sudden raindrops
to hasten her away—splat, splat . . . ?
(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2012)
GIRL WITH STILL LIFE
After Girl with Still Life (1919) by Alexander Tischler
A balancing act, this wearing of a hat as wide as a tray on
which are placed the things of the day : reminders of toil,
or the waste of time, or only the fancied weight of flowers—
wilting now. She is poised and steady—her long hair rib-
boning down her back, her face expressionless—part of
the still, a prop for the hat which almost weighs too much.
But she supports the teetering hat with its two goblets,
three knives, three apples, and half-empty wine carafe—
Tischler’s object-meaning for the Girl with Still Life.
in a white apron
and a hat to shade her from the sun
sits in the day’s warm light,
hands in her lap, palms down,
mind-drifting to a place
that takes her from herself.
And the day shuts down.
Her work is waiting—
it waits behind her in a long field;
her work is waiting
in a house full of windows
that glaze their eyes
in the day’s warm silence
and also seem to forget
her work is waiting.
THE WHITE MEADOW
She fills her hat with flowers.
Soon the summer will be over.
Something watches and shivers,
something saying, come to me.
Her long dress stirs and makes
a rustling sound.
a watchful shadow
flowing near that takes
her mind back to the meadow.
Maybe she is that part of time that lives
for when it was—not in the now.
She bends again and resumes
her innocent gathering of flowers
and thinks her thoughts and feels no omen.
Here is a lady in a gold hat
with one lock of hair down her face
standing in a ray of darkness
watching those who disappear
from her, as she disappears to herself.
Still, her gold hat shines
in the gold-struck eyes of one
who admires her—follows her home.
A NIGHT REFLECTION
in a blue hat
dark cold enter
clutch the coat
close to the body
night in a blue hat
looking in window
after cold window
(first pub. in Bellingham Review, 1992)
THE SUNNY WINDOW OF THE
Ghosts in costume sit
at the sunny window
of the dark café.
They will not move
from the sunshine.
They are cold.
I think they want
to pray for
One of them
is at the jukebox
reading the names of music.
Another hides his face
in the shadow he has brought
beneath his hat.
I will not stay.
I will go through the door
and enter the brimming day.
I will not glance
as I pass their table.
ILLUSTRATION OF A HAT BY MARGARET COLLOT
(After Le Parfum de la rose, 1924 by A. E. Marty)
Red rose reaching toward red lips,
shy eyes closing as she bends
to sniff the rose;
to illustrate her yellow hat,
or to scandalize the kiss . . . .
Our thanks to Joyce Odam with her poetry of hats (our Seed of the Week) and her beautiful photos of the roses that go on those hats! Our new Seed of the Week is Night Sounds. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
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