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Red Jacket

At four or five or six years old,
my mother outfitted me with a red jacket
that had a hood and a double pocket on the belly
and a metal zipper that went tick-tick-tick in soft clicks
that could only be heard when you were inside it.

The fleece was on the inside where it counted,
and it had broad, soft elastic cuffs at the wrists
where my mother would stuff tissues
that I used to squash bugs
so that I could see the colour of their insides.
I knew that my insides were red,
but theirs were brown or yellow or green,
unless sometimes if they ate people, like mosquitoes.

I would find that jacket hanging in the closet in the winter,
and I would smell it and push its smooth insides into my face.
It meant things, that coat. Even then I knew.
It was the smell of rain-damp dirt with mashed in pine needles
from the trees way up north,
and my cold, chubby fingers in wet sand on grey days
when my uncle's curse kept the rain close;
it was the musky-sweet smell of rotten foliage
limping into the humic soil
and translucent snail shells snapping easy against
water-worn pebbles no bigger than my smallest fingernail.

That coat is a place.
That coat is a place even at the bottom
of the landfill it was thrown into
after my mother secreted it from the house.
Long from then, now, when I lie in bed,
older and sore and worried,
I am in that coat with fat cheeks
counting the beetle shells
that I have stashed in my sleeves.

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