I walked along Grant Avenue two blocks
then turned in through the small
wood-framed door of the Shlock Shop,
and the sensation again: a sudden
slackening of the muscle in my neck
as if it were intoxicated,
so that my head dropped back
and all I could do was stare at the ceiling
where they had hung for decades.
One could, if desired, stretch out an arm
and pull down a Panama
or black Bowler, a Fedora or Borsalino,
ease it over the rim of his skull
so the scalp was cloaked in felt,
or in a fine weave stitched
from an Ecuadoran's hands.
But I reached for my tweed cap,
pulled it over my brow, pushed it back.
Standing below the various shapes
and sizes, I thought of my grandfather,
how as a boy I marveled at his silence
and what might be hidden
beneath his huge, checkered cap.
He would lift it off, rub the shiny
dome of flesh, then put it back,
as if he too needed reminding.
Maybe this yearning to camouflage
our long-ago fused bone-plates
is the body's attempt to salvage loss,
to restrain whatever drifts
from the gray and white matter.
Minutes must have passed. My neck
straightened with its spine. My cap
held its position. I nodded to the woman
behind the counter, and like usual,
she signaled back under a beige Stetson.


Poems by Richard Callin:

A New Life
Nine One One
Touring County Mayo, Eire
The Buick
How I'll Tell Him
A Story
Water Wheel

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets