By Kory M Shrum

She’s surrounded by no less than fifty hatboxes.
Each one invites in their decoration. Satin,
suede and long soft ribbons spread a halo

of color around her. Open, they erupt
tissue paper from black, hungry mouths. She hasn’t
got all day, so she makes a choice. She caves

for a lavender print, sealed by a thick ribbon.
Sifting through paper guts, she’s amazed
to find HAPPINESS so easy with its wide brim.

And even if it doesn’t quite fit, it’s warm,
butter-yellow and smells of daffodil snouts.
Too easy, she throws HAPPINESS aside for

variety and by default excitement. PRETTY was
too tight. TALENT too heavy. BEAUTY, too simple,
dove gray and reflecting the light around it rather

than its own—like POWER, which lay incarnadine
and every inch sequined. But no dress to go with it,
or HOPE, now nothing more than a practical knit cap

used to keep the wearer warm. No hat in the box
marked FREE, CHEROKEE no longer in stock,
WHITE so last season. She was told

she couldn’t have a BLACK one. So she took
what was left, crossed to the full-length mirror,
pulled down the short mesh veil of WOMAN.

She needed gloves to cover her hands as some hats
require accessory. GENEROUS for example,
called for pearl earrings. FEAR, for fake eyelashes.

She spent the night turning in frosted glass, molding
the fluidity of her desire to account for this new weight.
She didn’t like to look of WOMAN either because it, like

the others, caused a cloud of heat to gather unpleasantly
around her face. What she wanted was FREE, the elusive
Fedora forgotten somewhere in stockroom shuffling.

Yet she wasn’t brave enough to ask for it.
She decided on HAPPINESS, a hat
she could no longer find in the paper mess at her feet.
Kory M. Shrum’s work has appeared in North American Review, The Florida Review, Zone 3, Phoebe, Redactions, Ascent and elsewhere. She lives in Michigan with her pug.

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