Josh Dale

That Sweat Brimmed Hat 

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Swoosh.

Blaze orange.

Velcro back.

My favorite color at the time.

Circa 2001-2003.

Wore it to the YMCA camp every day.

Sports camp.

Normal camp was for pussies.

Ninety degrees on average.

Worked us like slaves in Giza

for a pint of Powerade at 4:30.

Fruit punch, always.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Caught the dirt and flies on the brim.

The sun made it no less orange,

but a little more yellow.

Jagged sweat line looking like lightning.

Some days it was more saturated.

I liked the multiplicity of raindrops

and watching it dry.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

I wore glasses

the day some kid scraped his knee to the bone.

White as a fresh linen sheet,

encircled by coagulated goo.

The kind you see on Halloween masks.

Counselors scrambled like gnats,

“Nothing to see here, kids!”

Nervous laughter.

No child should ever see such a sight.

There was a rotted hole in the old oak log.

I bet Thoreau would stare at it for hours.

It reminded me of hell.

An ambulance skied down the sloping green grass.

We were forced out of the woods

with clammy hands.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Crafting gimp and paper-mâché

the first year only.

Because I was a pussy.

But it was fun and so cool to me.

Some counselor dribbled a soccer ball in the hall.

To think: I’m now as old as they were.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Accidentally saw a black boy’s penis while changing.

Passing glance.

Briefs as white as that knee.

Trace of sweat because I was getting chunky.

Anatomy lesson.

Life lesson.

We all look the same down there.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Scared to go in the deep end.

Pleaded to get out,

when my toes felt no concrete.

I wanted to wear my hat low,

to conceal my chagrin.

I avoided the cute counselor’s eyes,

because she looked at me with disappointment.

Either chestnut or red hair,

I think I liked her,

or needed to piss in the shallow

because something was going on down there.

The watery lord laughed,

along with the kids in the deep end.

Wanting to drown me slowly.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Sweet reprieve in the climate-controlled gym.

I prayed for rain.

Shot my first ever half-courter

with the victors of the Panathenaea.

I donned that orange hat with olive branches,

and raised my other hand,

waving down the paper airplanes yards away,

in transit to the chilly hardwood.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

Sitting on morning dew.

Roll call concentration camp.

We kids outnumbered them 30:1.

29:1 for my platoon though.

That kid’s knee never graced

the basketball blacktop again.

He was better off.

It melted my plastic outsoles.

That sweat-brimmed hat.

The old athletic director.

His voice’s amplitude matched the humidity.

He too had a sweat-brimmed hat.

But his was white, jagged gray.

I think he beat his wife,

because his face burned as red as the sun

when he yelled at our sluggish pace.

He gripped a kid by his soggy collar.

I tipped my hat low

and jogged my 8 laps.

My back was drenched.

It helped pass the time.

Published 11-18-17

Josh Dale holds a BA in English from Temple University and has been previously published in or is forthcoming in 48th Street Press, Black Elephant Literary Magazine, Peeking Cat Poetry, Scarlet Leaf Review, SickLit, The Long Island Review, Your One Phone Call, and others. A craft beer enthusiast by soul, you will find him getting paper cuts at Thirty West Publishing House. He is also a proud cat dad to his fur baby, Daisy, a rescue Bengal.

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