Napoleon's hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that's not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn't much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn't even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up--well, he didn't really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.
James Tate - 1943-2015
The Lost Pilot
for my father, 1922-1944
Your face did not rot like the others--the co-pilot, for example, I saw him yesterday. His face is corn- mush: his wife and daughter, the poor ignorant people, stare as if he will compose soon. He was more wronged than Job. But your face did not rot like the others--it grew dark, and hard like ebony; the features progressed in their distinction. If I could cajole you to come back for an evening, down from your compulsive orbiting, I would touch you, read your face as Dallas, your hoodlum gunner, now, with the blistered eyes, reads his braille editions. I would touch your face as a disinterested scholar touches an original page. However frightening, I would discover you, and I would not turn you in; I would not make you face your wife, or Dallas, or the co-pilot, Jim. You could return to your crazy orbiting, and I would not try to fully understand what it means to you. All I know is this: when I see you, as I have seen you at least once every year of my life, spin across the wilds of the sky like a tiny, African god, I feel dead. I feel as if I were the residue of a stranger's life, that I should pursue you. My head cocked toward the sky, I cannot get off the ground, and, you, passing over again, fast, perfect, and unwilling to tell me that you are doing well, or that it was mistake that placed you in that world, and me in this; or that misfortune placed these worlds in us.