Jimmy Pappas

The Man with No Hat

We set up a Vietnam veterans' booth at the fair
with a large collection of military hats. 

One man approached the table with his wife
who urged him to pick up one of the hats. 

She told him it was okay, she would buy it
as a Christmas gift, but he just stared at the hats. 

I walked over to where they stood to offer
my assistance so he could select the right hat. 

The woman poked him with her elbow
to get him to talk to me about buying a hat. 

He finally told me he was a Marine in Nam; 
I picked out what I thought was the perfect hat. 

With a shaky voice he told me how ashamed
he was of his service and didn't deserve a hat. 

I took it and placed it on his head like crowning a king. 
We both told him he looked great in that hat. 

The man held out fifteen dollars in payment, but I said, 
Don't you worry, Sir. This one's on me. Take the hat. 


Jimmy Pappas served during the Vietnam War as an English language instructor training South Vietnamese soldiers. Jimmy received his BA in English at Bridgewater State University and an MA in English literature from Rivier University. He is a retired teacher whose poems have been published in many journals, including Yellowchair Review, Rattle, Shot Glass Journal, Off the Coast, The Ghazal Page, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Poetry Society of NH. He was one of ten finalists in the 2017 Rattle Poetry Contest. 

I wrote the ghazal thinking of a veteran I encountered at a New Hampshire fair. He seemed so alone in spite of his wife and me standing with him.