Back to this One Hat
by James Penha

            Coming from the hat,
            Studying the hat,
            Entering the world of the hat,
            Reaching through the world of the hat
            Like a window,
            Back to this one from that.
                        —from “Finishing the Hat” by Stephen Sondheim

When I am asked for my earliest memory, two
traumas compete for narration: one when my parents
said we’d ride the Maid of the Mist beneath
(did they really say “beneath”?) Niagara Falls,
and I screamed and cried, “Nooooooooo,” and
two before one Sunday supper when I found
my grandfather’s fedora fallen from the rack,
tried it on, liked it in the mirror, marched
to the dining room table to earn smiles and laughter
even from my grandfather, and heard Aunt
Lucille saying so sadly, “Jackie, now, you are
going to lose all your hair just like Grandpa,”
and I screamed and cried, “Nooooooooo,” and,
throwing the hat on the floor, waited, day after
day, no matter how my mother reassured me
her sharp-tongued sister was joking, to go bald.

PHOTO: A portrait of the hatted artist on the verge of tears . . . again.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. His essay“It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column in April 2016. He edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.