By Norah Christianson
The Bonnet Shop
Every Saturday, when I was a child,
my mother would take me downtown
to The Bonnet Shop. In the show window,
hanging down from ribbons, hats floated
gay as fairy boats.
Inside, hats crowned red-lipped plastic heads
or sat on hat-racks like parrots in a tree.
Hats furred or pheasant-feathered in winter,
hats straw-woven, flower-pied in spring,
hats, hats, glorious hats!
The owner of The Bonnet Shop,
a beautiful, diminutive lady in high heels
and jewels, would laugh when she saw me.
Then she’d pinch my cheeks hard.
Painfully, painfully hard. She’d tug my nose,
she’d twist my hair, she’d tweak my ears.
She’d lean down, breathing lilies,
to sing, “I could eat you up!”
She always gave me something
from her stock of pretty things—
a scarf, a bracelet, a posy hat with which
she taught me how to hold my head just so.
Then she’d pinch me pinch me pinch me,
pinch me hard again.
She loved me.
I knew that childless woman loved me.
There was love’s ferocity in her touch.
She showed me love, she caused me pain,
she taught me love and pain are paired.
She taught me how to carry off a fashionable hat.
She taught me love is not an easy thing to bear.
“The Bonnet Shop” is a poem from my book “Lizard Season.” I write to be understood, so my poems, hopefully, don’t really need any explaining. I have no imagination, so I never could write fiction. (I tried). I’ll just say that my poems are “true,” in the sense that they come from my own life memories and experiences.
Norah Pollard lives in Stratford, with her 27 house plants and a large collection of kitsch. She reads and she writes. She cuts her own hair. She is a lousy cook. She wrote her first poem when she was 44. She is pretty old now, but she still loves make-up and jewelry. She mows her lawn with an old push-mower. She does not go to church. She avoids parties whenever she can. She belongs to a book club. She has two grandchildren who need more discipline. She is the author of six books of poetry (Leaning In, Report from the Banana Hospital, Death & Rapture in the Animal Kingdom, In Deep, Lizard Season, and Animalian) She believes climate change is like menopause—a lot of hot flashes and volcanic upheavals before everything dries up and becomes sterile. She believes the country is going to hell. Still, she votes and feeds the birds.