Oh little fishy. You, you brought the bottle
green tint to the world, the blue bauble glint.
Young and in love. This is a legacy that
has it on mud and lumber, oh yes,
that breathes through its blue glass bones.
Easy fella. In a flatbed Ford, a coaster
on rollers, a cloudy August afternoon.
They are out on errands and everything
is quiet. I must chase the golden fish away
to rhapsodize about him, little fish.
The guy has my eyes. Keen canoodling,
Zen commanding. Ken kaput. Fair of cheek,
huge of foot. Can not yet be tickled.
A woman howling, her baby's bunk somehow
afloat in the river, taking on water. Help,
shrieks the mother. Shriek, helps the baby,
and a good man jumps into the river; splash
and paddle. Grabs the kid, hands the damp
bundle over. Thank God, cries the mother.
She cradles her daughter, looks up at the man,
says, Excuse me, but she had a hat.
The child grows up to be a hat-check girl,
always trying to get back what she'd lost,
always having to return it all by the end of the
night. She is often sorrowful and ashamed
for being sorrowful, surrounded by warm
coats, a stool to rest on while others,
elsewhere, spend all day bending. Wincing
anyway, she sharp regrets her bland
missteps, laments her ill use and fatigue. It is
awful: her feet hot with it, her head metal-cold.
You think it's enough to just keep
getting old? Can't I also have my hat?
Roots squeeze this information toward their
leaves: You can not also have your hat.
After mother and child left, the man,
loitering the scene of his heroics
happened upon the little girl's small cap.
Picked it up off the bank, startled by the tiny
scale of its protection, took it home, kept it
for years, then lost track of it.
It's been long seasons since he'd jump
in the sea like a fin in response to a splash.
To be so little thanked, so asked for more,
flattened in him what he hoped he had to give.
The mother grows less certain by degrees
that all that she had long awaited
had any sense outside the confines
of her blazing expectations.
The girl, fidgeting hairclip in cloak room,
her own self set by his one leap and her many
lurid resignations, braces waves of distress
and lets down her tresses. All three rail
their separate saga, he having labored
and netted so little; the elder she having
wanted so much from those around her
and found she was not so much let down
as wrong in her detailed attentions; the girl
wrestling a dreadful shadow: the facts
that throw us in the water in the first place
ruin us for much saving. She is aggrieved
of it, feels disgraced by the triumph of pain.
I want to comfort them, myself, my keen regret,
but am at best a lemon tree, vivid fruit
abundant among bleak green leaves. I will
wait for ice and sugar to be invented,
bees in the daytime, bats when it's done.
I will wait in the sun. I hope for relief like a
lunatic, indulge, like a drunk, in my croon.
It is my intention to offer lemonade while
there is time and so much brutal sunshine.
Meanwhile, I can't do much, but gather
the hero and the mother beneath my bower.
As for the girl, she's not a hat-checker,
anymore, there's no such thing these
days. After an eon of servitude: men
stopped wearing hats, so she was free
to wander away from the 21 Club
and under my branches. Isn't she
beautiful? Didn't she have a hat?
To know, and arrange, and recover
even that. I am ridiculous, but it is
what is wanted.