Beret

Natania Rosenfeld

 

Strange word for so simple
a thing as a flat felt hat.

Don’t forget your bear-ay,
my mother’d say, and I thought it

a protective object. Surely it wasn’t
an “affectation”? Father despised

“affectation,” and so did Mother: She’s
affected,
they’d say of one, and that

would be the end of her. Where were
the lines? Was Papa wholly un-“affected”?

Such questions were absorbing. Also,
Am I bad? Why the sudden slap?

And why, for a man without pretense,
a Parisian dauber’s headgear? Why,

for the South Philadelphian, talisman,
not tallis? German, embraced and

cherished, not Yiddish. Swabian,
indeed, including a rustic embroidered

smock for me. But a French hat, with
the “t” unspoken. Why and why?

NATANIA ROSENFELD is author of a poetry collection, Wild Domestic (Sheep Meadow Press 2015), and a critical book, Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf (Princeton 2000). Her essays, poems and fiction have appeared in journals including APR, Raritan, Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Southwest Review, and four essays have been listed as “Notable” in Best American Essays collections. She recently retired after twenty years of teaching in the English department at Knox College.