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Hat Envy

            —Wearing a large hat, Aretha Franklin sang
            for President Obama’s Inauguration, 2009

Aretha, people were talkin’
—a profusion of poems, a billion blogs—
they saw your hat as a political statement.
They might’ve been right, but I have my own views.
I bet you wore that hat for the natural woman in you.

We’re not like birds,
where males get the pretty plumage.
Women like to strut
for the envy of females, the eyes of men.
In that dove gray, winged and crystal wonder,
you were as queenly as your voice.
In that hat, you must have felt
goldfinch gold, peacock grand.

Among the cold, bundled crowd
no one else wore a fashion hat.
Did you wear it because, like many women,
you have a little crush on Barack?
But only you had enough pluck.

Ever since, women flock to your Motown milliner,
except poor Michelle, who can’t wear one
now without being compared
to the First Lady of Soul.

I have a gray chapeau too—
wore it twice, twenty years ago.
Men loved it; women wished they could pull it off.

For white women like me, hat wearin’s a lost art.
We hanker for your style, hate you a tad
for exposing our hatless state.
Mostly, we give the respect you command,
way beyond just a little bit.


Karen Paul Holmes has a full-length poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She was chosen for Best Emerging Poets (Stay Thirsty Media, forthcoming). Publications include Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, and Poet Lore. To support fellow writers, Holmes originated and hosts a critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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