Work Clothes

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Work Clothes

Work Clothes

While not a list poem, this poem by Marianna Hofer, like Pinsky’s "The Shirt," considers the meaning of a particular shirt – the flannel shirt worn by her father.

"Work Clothes" by Marianna Hofer

Today I bought two men’s flannel shirts.
As last winter moved along, I discarded
the remaining flannel shirts left by my father,
ragged, thin, missing buttons and elbows.

Year after year he’d hand over the accidently shrunken,
the outgrown, to me. I hoarded, then wore
what was left after his death. So I found myself
at K-Mart with bright plaid shirts he’d like.

In the solitude of working outside, of new flannel
stiff and warm in the weak November sun,
I bend to finish off the garden. Nasturtiums,
an old wives’ tale against beetles in the beans, have
finally succumbed to the frost, blossoms
wet tissues in my hands as I pull up vines.

The joy of days spent alone with shovel and hoe
my father I eventually came to share like greedy friends.
In childhood snapshots we’re happy together
in the gardens we constructed, grinning
for the camera like simple backwoods farmers, dirt
smudges on shirt sleeves and faces.

For a man who spent considerable years
solitary in the country, who postponed
wife and family until late, he learned
to share gladly. My brother and I, though,
must have been hard to adjust to.
We must have seemed to have wanted in everything —
his energy, his history, his silence.
The very shirt off his back, he must have believed.

"Work Clothes" by Marianna Hofer from Family Matters: Poems of Our Families edited by Ann Smith and Larry Smith. Bottom Dog Press, 2003. Used with permission of the author.

Marianna Hofer, originally from Cuyahoga Falls, has Studio 13 in the gloriously haunted Jones Building in Findlay, Ohio. Her poems and stories appear in small magazines, and her photography hangs in local exhibitions and eateries. Her first book,  A Memento Sent by the World, was published by Word Press in 2008.