The Hat Factory Where A Denver Poet Came Of Age

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Photo: Poet Robert Cooperman

Authors are often told to write about what they know, so it helps to have led an interesting life. Denver poet Robert Cooperman has. His last collection of poems was about his adventures driving a taxicab in New York City. His new one, "City Hall Frame Factory," is about the millinery business his family owned in New York.

Read the first poem from the new collection:

Jackie Kennedy’s Hats

Every time she and her dashing husband
appeared outdoors on TV, 
JFK with his hair tousled by the wind; 
Jackie in an elegant chapeau,
my father would bless her unsolicited 
endorsement for the millinery trade in general, 
his hat frame factory in particular.
But then her terrible betrayal:
on the Evening News, her dark locks 
blew free, no hat to hold them in place, 
no inspiration for other women 
to follow her fashionable example.
“There goes the business,” Dad sighed.
Over the next few weeks, there she was 
again and again, chapeau-less, when once 
she’d stood so stylish, yet just the right 
amount of reserve, in a pillbox or summer hat.
The demise wasn’t quick; no customers 
called the next morning, shouting at Dad 
to cancel their orders; or him reading 
in the papers about fancy hat shop owners
jumping from high windows, as stock brokers
had done on Black Tuesday in 1929.
That might’ve been more merciful, 
but the business limped on
like a wounded hare pursued by a fox.
It took a few years for the collapse: 
some seasons better than others.
Through it all, Dad couldn’t help 
but love Kennedy’s beautiful wife,
then widow, but never trusted her again.