The Hat in the Sky

Al Zolynas
  • Al Zolynas
  • 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 spent his boyhood in Australia before coming to the United States when he was 15. He taught literature and writing at Alliant International University (formerly USIU) for many years. An experienced Zen practitioner, he has recently begun teaching Zen meditation in Escondido and occasionally gives talks on Zen practice at Zen Center San Diego. “The Hat in the Sky” is from The New Physics, published by Wesleyan University Press. The entire book can be read online at capa.conncoll.edu/zolynas. The poem is published by permission. Photo credit: Arlie Zolynas.

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