The Hat in the Sky


After the war,
after I was born,
my father's hobby
(perhaps his obsession)
was photography.
New fathers often become
photographers, it seems.
But he took pictures of many things
besides me,
as if he suddenly felt it all
slipping away
and wanted to hold it forever.
In one of the many shoe boxes
full of photographs
in my father's house,
one photo sticks in my mind,
a snapshot
of a black hat
in midair,
the kind of hat fashionable in the forties,
a fedora–something
Bogie would wear.
Someone has thrown it
into the air–
perhaps my father himself,
perhaps someone in an exuberant moment
at a rally or gathering.
It's still there,
hanging in the sky
as ordinary and impossible
as a painting by Magritte,
and it's impossible
how it wrenches my heart, somehow.
At odd moments in my life,
that hat appears to me
for no discernible reason.


Al Zolynas, Under Ideal Conditions, Laterthanever Press, 1994.