That Hat
by Joan Colby

It was the hat I didn’t wear
When the mare somersaulted over the jump
And stunned, I scrabbled in the stony dirt
For my smashed glasses. It was black velvet
Camouflaging a plastic shell
Designed to absorb shock. A chin strap
I never fastened. We never wore such hats
When I was young. A hard hat
For protection. That day, I was only schooling,
It wasn’t a show where hats like that
Are required. My fingers sifted blindly
In the dust. It was a dry year, the ground
Like concrete. Something wet
Dripped into my eyes. My hand red
With blood. The mare struggled
To her feet, bridleless. I still held
A rein. I couldn’t think
Of what to do. I said “stay” to the mare
As though she were my dog in an obedience trial.
She shuddered, then ran a mile to the stable
Where the hat enclosed in its box
In the tackroom was a black mark
Against hubris. When I was a kid
We wore soft velveteen jockey caps
Like the real jockeys who also didn’t
Think to save their brains. Nobody did.
We did trick riding like in the circus
Where the performers tossed their golden curls.
Luck and danger were the twins,
The Gemini of our ambition.
In the ER, the x-ray pictures
Amazed the doctors; no depressed
Fracture as they’d expected. Scalp partly shaved
To clean out dirt and gravel. Slashes where
The steel shod hooves had slammed.
It began to hurt like nobody’s business.
I was a cliché of heedlessness.
The next day I was a pumpkin
Rotted black, my eyes slits
From which I peered. People on the street
Looked, then looked away. I learned
What the disfigured must experience.
My class said “What happened?”
They thought I was brave or crazy.
Even now, I bear the scars. The deep dent
In my cheek that has no feeling.
The shattered teeth, root canaled and crowned.
I wear the hat when I happen to think
Of it which isn’t always.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I was well into adulthood when this happened –old enough to know better than to forgo that hat..


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.