Now, while so many of our daughters are dying
Because they are not thin or young
Or beautiful enough, it is the blue hat
I want to explain, a royal blue fedora
That I bought because I knew Betty,
Fashion coordinator of the town's largest department store
Who dressed in Vogue magazine styles and feather boas
In the middle of Tennessee hills
And denim-dressed Unitarian wives.
Betty wept at the beauty of her husband Arthur's sermons
And decorated her Christmas tree with red velvet ribbons
And came to Mom's funeral in a black Homburg
With Chantilly lace drape and silk pajamas
And a choker of crystals—

Betty, who was the first to have watermelon placemats
And real candles in a wrought-iron chandelier,
Who looked me over as I swung my legs
On the turquoise loveseat and said to Mother,
What are we going to do with her?
Betty told me I would be beautiful
With the right clothes and a little older
And gave me a cashmere sweater for college
And false eyelashes for graduate school
And said sex was wonderful

And when a stroke shut Arthur down
Except for a little roar he could make
Sometimes when he heard her voice on the phone,
Betty believed that behind his immobile face
And arms and legs his mind raced on,
Got 24-hour-a-day care and a hospital bed,
Played MacNeil-Lehrer news and his favorite videos
Every evening, wearing her best red negligee
To climb in bed with him for an hour or two,
Tell him about her day, the way she'd chat
With her friends at work about what Arthur had thought
Of the last foreign film or the latest political news,
For seven years before he died;
This blue hat honors Betty.

--Robin Chapman
Originally appeared in The Hudson Review and The Way In (Tebot Bach).