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“When I was five or six years old, while my father was at church, I often crawled into his closet, stood on a stool, and tried on all of his hats, sometimes looking into and smelling the crowns. These moments remain in some odd way the most mysterious and unorthodoxly religious ones in my life. I wrote the first three or four lines while hiking in 1996. When my father died in 1998, I wrote the entire poem out in fifteen minutes.”

—Mark Irwin

My Father's Hats

Mark Irwin
   Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
   on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
   the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
   through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
   his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
   crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
   held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
   was that of a clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
   sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
   on water I'm not sure is there.

From Bright Hunger by Mark Irwin. Copyright ©2004 by Mark Irwin. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

From Bright Hunger by Mark Irwin. Copyright ©2004 by Mark Irwin. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Mark Irwin

Mark Irwin is the author of numerous books of poems including Large White House Speaking (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2013).  He lives in Colorado and Los Angeles, where he teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of Southern California.