The Sadness of Hats

by Richard Spilman

He had been taught like many men his age
not to look at himself, even in mirrors. Shaving
saw only what he had to. So it was on a hot Sunday
at a track meet in Berkeley, watching Mary Decker
win the mile, that, after fainting in his seat,
he discovered he was bald.

(Okay, I lie. He knew, but not in the way you know,
when you pull out too late or come home early
to find a pickup in your drive, that life
has caught up with you.)

Now, he goes nowhere, even on morning walks
or trips to the grocery, without a widebrimmed hat,
wears longsleeved shirts in the heat of summer.
Even so, to every physical his doctor brings a cup
of steaming nitrogen and burns the tiny scales
that threaten his life.

He feels as if he’s hiding from the man he was once,
head bared to the sun. He remembers Mary Decker
that day in Berkeley, arms spread like Nike’s wings,
and later in Los Angeles writhing on the grass
after Zola Budd cut in.