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Skirts and Slacks

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The .32 Special,
its Dutch Masters box,
still in their bedroom
closet, days after
my mother’s death,
plus my father’s
thirty years ago.
I used to practice
disarming, reloading,
putting it in my mouth
for fun. And so,
here it is again,
but (stupid woman,
Great Depression child
scrolling tens and twenties
in macaroni boxes)
loaded, half-cocked.
Oh yes, shoot the burglar
in the closet, the cat
in heat on the fence,
and Calvin Coolidge. She rose,
rammy, close to death,
cocked up in bed
as if pulleyed by heaven,
sometime past midnight.
I was there to watch
her eyes wake for a moment
enraged and hateful toward me.
Bone wooled with slights
of flesh, what certainty
in the body at its end?
And between here and there?
Breath stops, blood fades,
the comic head I’m lifting
from the pillow feels
too merely anatomical
and heavier than before.

“Skirts and Slacks” from Skirts And Slacks: Poems © 2001, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Poetry (June 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Skirts and Slacks

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