Winner of the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award
The old man’s itchy greatcoat fell to me
and given his complaint of its intransigence
I landed on the notion of storing it in the open.
Now that he can’t feel the elements
why not put this remnant of him in them?
There’s acid in the rain enough, enough UV,
that what outlasted him may not outlast me.
Get a pole and cross-pole. Fix them together.
Fence wire, screw nails, duct tape, whatever.
The less seen of this part the better.
There’s no need for carpentry. Let him be
haphazard. Let him fail in a high wind,
collapse with the weight of a cloudburst.
He should need maintenance.
When the pumpkin rots it’s shocking. Try a
punctured soccer ball. Or a mask from art class.
When the straw hat’s gone, tack on a baseball cap.
When you find him flattened by some enemy,
reach your arm beneath his backbone,
thin within the war-green wool, and heave.
Stamp your heel down hard where he is planted.
Crows come regardless.
Deer and rabbits act as though he’s harmless.
But I’ve seen men and women startled.
I’ve backed into him, hoeing in the garden,
felt a poke between my shoulder blades.
He’s got hypervigilance. Low-level PTSD.
Those sleeves held wide show no sign of fatigue.