Author’s note: When I think of Penn Station in Baltimore, I imagine travelers from a bygone era sitting on wooden benches with suitcases at their feet and coats folded on their laps, eager to be whisked away to other cities. My grandfather wore a fedora, kept an ironed handkerchief in his pocket, and adored trains. Beyond that, the poem is a fiction. My grandfather didn’t live to see crockpots or computers, but he would have adored those, too.
For the Gentleman and His Fedora
The gentleman sitting next to me in Penn Station
has a fedora in his lap. Not a porkpie
or Panama hat. Nothing you’d call retro.
No, his hat reminds me of Humphrey Bogart
lighting a cigarette with his hands cupped
around a match. A hat my grandfather
would have worn reading The News American
on the number 8 streetcar. This gentleman
with the gray fedora, with its perfect crease
along the crown and a small brown feather
tucked inside a shiny black hatband,
tells me he is waiting for the train
to Philadelphia, where he will be met
by his grandson, Bill, who is quite the bigwig
in the computer biz. They will drink scotch,
while dinner cooks in something called a
crockpot. He chuckles at the word, crockpot.
The gentleman rubs his thumbs along
the fedora’s felt brim and tells me
he will not need to go to assisted living,
after all. Then he blows his nose
into a white handkerchief with ironed creases
and an H embroidered in pale blue stitches.
My grandfather’s initial. I like this H. I like
his small brown feather and perfect creases.
I like Bill and his crockpot, too. I would like
to drink a glass of scotch with Bill in Philadelphia
and the gentleman in the gray fedora.
I would like to go to a city where someone
will be glancing up from a newspaper
to check the time that I’ll arrive.
Maryland author Barbara Westwood Diehl is founding editor of The Baltimore Review. Her fiction and poetry have been published in a variety of journals, including Delmarva Review, Quiddity, Potomac Review (Best of the 50), Measure, Little Patuxent Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gargoyle, Superstition Review, Rivet, Per Contra, Thrush Poetry Journal, Tishman Review, The MacGuffin, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
Delmarva Review publishes an annual literary journal featuring outstanding new poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction from thousands of submissions during the year. All writers are encouraged to submit their best work. The nonprofit journal is supported by contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: www.DelmarvaReview.org.
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