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American Life in Poetry

Sun., Oct. 20, 2013, midnight

Perhaps you’ve experienced the sudden, unsettling intimacy of putting on somebody else’s jacket and finding a wad of tissue in the pocket. Here’s a fine poem by Debra Nystrom, raised in South Dakota and now teaching in Virginia.

Little Parka

Dream of Mom’s red parka gone —

someone stole it right out of the closet

of the burned-down house — what

good could it do anybody else, broken

zipper that always got caught,

she’d jimmy it loose, just part

of putting it on — and she was so tiny,

the arms too short even for me,

too-tiny gloves in the pockets, thumbs

stubby, practically useless to anyone

but her — they deserve it if they shove in

a hand, find the tissue she used and then

left there who knows which cold day,

what she needed it for, or why.

Poem copyright 2009 by Debra Nystrom from “Bad River Road” (Sarabande Books), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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