av Billy Collins.
Once every man wore a hat. In the ashen newsreels, the avenues of cities are broad rivers flowing with hats. The ballparks swelled with thousands of strawhats, brims and bands, rows of men smoking and cheering in shirtsleeves. Hats were the law. They went without saying. You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd. You bought them from Adams or Dobbs who branded your initials in gold on the inside band. Trolleys crisscrossed the city. Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor. Men with hats gathered on the docks. There was a person to block your hat and a hatcheck girl to mind it while you had a drink or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato. In your office stood a hat rack. The day the war was declared everyone in the street was wearing a hat and they were wearing hats when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea. My father wore one to work every day and returned home carrying the evening paper, the winter chill radiating from his overcoat. But today we go bareheaded into the winter streets, stand hatless on frozen platforms. Today the mailboxes on the roadside and the spruce trees behind the house wear cold white hats of snow. Mice scurry from the stone walls at night in their thin fur hats to eat the birdseed that has spilled. And now my father, after a life of work, wears a hat of earth, and on top of that, A lighter one of cloud and sky—a hat of wind.