Old Men in Hats

Esperanza Cintron, Detroit

I like old men in hats
pork pie or broad brimmed
stogies and gnarled hands gripping
dapper canes of ebony or bamboo
hair, close cut w/waves that
remember processes and basement dos

I like old men in hats
who used to court their girls
w/barbecue dinners and rhinestone chokers
whose Hogs and Deuces were never dirty
who appreciated a big-legged woman
in a close-fitting dress, and
when she looked particularly good
would place a firm hand on the small of her back
and usher her into a crowded room

I like old men in hats
dudes with loose change jingling
in weighted pockets
of long ago shark skins
who wear well-shined Italian loafers
and ask young girls
"What you want baby?"
while fingering wads of Washingtons

I like old men in hats
and three-piece suits, polyester threads
who used to shoot craps
at after hour joints on 12th Street
who remember when Aretha
was a little girl and used
to sing in that church on Linwood
or the time they heard Malcolm preach
at Mosque #1

I like old men in hats who
hum do wop,
laugh and try to do a Miracle spin
to some Korean Conflict ditty
that had been playing on the radio
the day Rosa got arrested

I like old men in hats who
smooth the edges of crisp crowns and brims
before placing them lovingly
in big round Henry the Hatter boxes
and sit in over-warm, cozy houses
on the far eastside
telling stories about daddy's farm
their first ride, depression-era losses
and brothers who, fleeing lynch mobs
followed the north star
to man wartime assembly lines and
build bombers that failed to free lunch counters

I like old men
who smile and
shake their nappy gray heads
at how little young people know


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