I was given
a tasseled hat
for my birthday.
I had just turned
four years old.

What am I to do
with this?
I wondered.
Amidst the
ensuing laughter,
face twisted up,
“No, it’s a hat,”
I was told.

Not stylish
like a Fedora
a scooping flourish
to its brim,

nor distinguished
as a Top hat,
To me it was
as ugly as sin.

Uh … thanks?
I shrugged my shoulders.
Walked away
feeling inside,
this gift is tragic.

“It’s a Fez,”
I was told,
“from Africa.”
Somehow that
made it magic.

It took me
on my first trip
it took me

No ocean liner or
transcontinental flight
the Fez transported me,
instantly and with ease.

From the exotic land
of Morocco,
to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”
and the great libraries
of Timbuktu.
A thirst for knowledge,
the perfect gift at that.

To learn about a continent
that was more than
“where slaves came from”
and all from a tasseled hat.

M. Zane McClellan

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