The Butler Pennsylvania Poems


Man with a Hat


When we were boys
he would come walking down Penn Street
on light and measured gait
every day at noontime
dressed in suit and tie—
on his head he had
a black bowler hat.

He came down the sidewalk
opposite ours, unnoticed,
like the sun came
or flowers in spring:
a ritual so certain
we hardly noted.

We never asked who he was.
Never needed to know.
But some sixty years later
restless memory flashed him back,
inquiring, still not knowing,
eager to fill in emptiness.

We might have taken him
for a stranger,
but he had lived among us,
his life was formed here,
imbued with what was given him:
that staid carriage,
that confidence,
that contented air.
What he possessed
made light shine out from him
from some unseen source,
and made us one with him and he with us.
It was the sight of him passing by
that let us see, unknowingly,
what sincerity and correctness were like
and called forth our respect.