A Box of Clothes

By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published in The Southern Review 42.3 (2006): 481-482.

He couldn’t tell why
he bothered to notice the smell
of the cardboard box
they were stored in;

how it reminded him
of the wooden deck
by sprinklers in the lawn
where he made mud cities
as a boy,

the moist grit
of dirt and bug parts
packed under his fingernails:
evidence of a useless thing
carried out
no less thoroughly.

Nor could he tell how
the softness of a rayon shirt
brushing against his wrist
implied the bald inner thigh
of his first lover;

how a box of old winter clothes
could also be an inventory
of lives lived and left,
unanticipated associations
which were strangely pleasurable.

And as he unfolded
the checkered cotton scarf
he bargained for years ago
with a street vendor in Baltimore,
tried on a brown suede coat
for the mirror behind the bathroom door,

he even had the high notion
that these items were promising
because they were viable
dead things;
especially the coat, which, like him,
was a skin and an odor,
but still needed,
indifferent to human considerations
and impossible without them.

And before another branch
knocked against the bedroom
window, he had almost forgotten
the practical purpose:
that it was cold outside
and he was tired
of the uncomfortable morning
walks to the subway,
the crunch of snow
under his shoes, the wind.