The Man Who Could Not Remove His Hat

A stage set
for a performance
of an obscure play
based on the life cycle
of a psychoactive fungus.

It is called 
“The Man
Who Could Not
Remove His Hat.”

We are still trying to decide
how to read the script
as it’s in a strange cipher,
and no one has a clue.

It looks a little like
an Egyptian code,
says someone from wardrobe —
which makes sense,
as they were obsessed with hats
in the days of the Ptolemies.
Cleopatra was known
for her lamb’s wool toques
decorated with the skins
of asps, hence the myth
of her demise by one;
in truth she died of hat poisoning,
died young but toasty warm.

No, you’re wrong,
said an understudy
with some mystery in their
face as if they had been
somewhere far away for a long
time and refused to think about it —

that code looks like something
I learned in high school
where we studied things like this
to prepare us for — well, for
life where we were. My uncle
in particular was skilled in such things
and he’d buy me beer when I was young
and help me with my homework,
letting me sip from his flask as well,
saying, I should keep all this
under my hat if I wanted to, well,
live where we lived back then. 
But it’s not one I’ve seen. Not one
I know. It just looks like one.

Several of us are beginning to rethink
our roles in the play. Most of us
have taken off our own hats now,

except for the lead who pulls his down farther,
tighter, over his forehead, down to the bridge
of his nose; a broken fedora in mottled yellow,
a damaged face under felted wool,
and when we step away to form a circle
around him, the lights come up 

and we are in a full house
with no idea how to act

but there are flags flying and 
secret knowledge wafting,
anthems and trumpet flourishes
as the Man Who Cannot Remove His Hat
rises above us, above us all;

hail, hail, cries the audience in the dark,
and for those trapped on stage

nothing stays real
for more than a second
at a time. 

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

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