The Package

By Rodney Jones b. 1950 Rodney Jones
It was a green barn coat from L. L. Bean   
That he had ordered, thinking of her   
Walking the snowy hillside of his dream   
Though she detested the style and color.

That it arrived two days after he died   
Did not dispose her to detest it less   
Though she may have wished she did,   
The way she wished she’d kept house

More neatly or baked instead of fried,   
For every coronary’s a latent homicide—
If not what we did, what we did not do.   
If not what we said, what we did not say.

In this, the inner jury’s always out,   
No different for man or woman—
For everyone over forty, the human   
Condition is grief complicated by guilt.

It’s unexceptional really, what’s left
After deaths. We’re thrown back on our own taste.   
That coat, for instance. If that was a gift,
She would have to hide to throw it away.

Rodney Jones, “The Package” from Elegy for the Southern Drawl. Copyright © 1999 by Rodney Jones. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (February 1999).


This poem originally appeared in the February 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 1999
 Rodney  Jones


Rodney Jones was born in 1950 in rural Alabama. He has described his childhood and youth as “very much like being a part of another age. Our community still did not have electricity until I was 5 or 6 years old.” His poetry frequently celebrates the relationships and events of the small, agrarian community he was born into, as well as preserves the kinds of vernacular speech he grew up hearing. Jones has noted of his youth in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Home Life, Relationships, Living, Men & Women, Death

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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