Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, SC

Passing the Hat

Passing the Hat

by Ellen E. Hyatt

from Kakalak 2008: Anthology of Carolina Poets


Baby girl, wear this

the day they bury me.

I want you to, and don’t mind

what others say. I bought it

at Magar Hatworks on King

on a day when jasmine twirled

itself around palms on Broad,

honeysuckle climbed cottages

on Longitude Lane. The air was cool,

the sun warm, and I was more May

than December.


Now, I could’ve bought the cocktail hat,

fuchsia and ostrich on buckram

or the bridal, all white with silk roses,

bleached feathers on straw,

wove close and rich. But changed my mind—

it’s a right you know. Bought, instead,

this lavender hat with pheasant feathers

resting at the brim and on the crown,

spring birds in a nest.


So you wear this one, Baby—

you’ll be old enough to wear purple

by then. Guard my casket, and

when Cousin Jayne—remember, Baby,

your mama knew her before she added

that fancy Y to the middle of the plain name—

when she tries talking you out of the hat,

why, Baby Girl, you just show her,

show all of then you can wear Charleston

no matter where your mama came from

or how she ended up.

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