Richard W. Halperin – The Man with the Black Gauze Hat



Richard W. Halperin holds Irish-U.S. nationality and lives in Paris. Since 2010, he has published four collections via Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher. The most recent is Catch Me While You Have the Light, 2018. In complement, he has published fifteen shorter collections via Lapwing, Belfast. The most recent – of three published in 2021 – is The Girl in the Red Cape. In Spring 2023, Salmon will bring out a Selected & New Poems, which will include poems from both publishers. Mr. Halperin’s work is part of University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive. Photograph of Richard W Halperin by J Ch.

The Man with the Black Gauze Hat

There is always at the end
a little last house
facing west
facing a little lake
pine trees on the other side.

I remember such a house
in a Wisconsin resort
of my childhood.
It was used for honeymooners.

Gradually, old,
I more and more
find myself in the house.
I touch the furniture.
I look out at the lake.

In an ancient Chinese poem
a man knowing he is going
on a journey from which
he will not be coming back
gives his friend his own
black gauze hat to wear.

How the friend feels
each time he puts it on
after his friend has died
I leave to you
to supply.

If you do not recognise
that this is a love poem
you are either very fortunate
or very unfortunate.

Bicycle Shop

Somewhat neglected.
Most bicycles in it were whole.
had been repaired. Were there.
Others looked like they were there
but weren’t yet. Off the road they’d been,
or off the road they’d go.

The proprietor was out to lunch,
the usual sandwich, so I could look
without converse.
Where was my old Schwinn?
In a museum by now.
Where was my stepfather Pablo

who’d taught me to ride it?
Someplace better than that, one hopes.
So many roads, so many clouds –
and to clouds,
cyclists are clouds,
speeding or meandering.

What is the difference between
a poem and a novel?
The former is not fiction,
it is the poet’s own soul,
not Anna Karenina’s
or Herbert Pocket’s.

It is time for a prayer,
among bicycles:
The good and the bad
are blessed.
Evil is not blessed.
The good and the bad are blessed.

What book of the Bible says that?
All of them, one hopes.
If I could find my marriage licence,
lost these many years, what do I wish
I could write at bottom?

Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

© Richard W Halperin