The Package

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: Elegy for the Southern Drawl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999)
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