Sorting the Clothes by Gloria Heffernan

Sorting the Clothes

When the time came
to clean out your apartment,
I was efficient.
Because efficiency was what was called for.
Because efficiency was what I could handle.

I filled the giant trash bags by category.
Some would be hand-me-downs –
Some donations –
Some, just the things you never got around to throwing out.

Simple enough, until I held each item
and remembered the time you wore this dress to the theater,
or when you bought that tee-shirt on vacation in Quebec
or when you purchased the too-big sweater on clearance because
For $19.99, there’s no such thing as too much cashmere!

Clothes that still carried your DNA,
Or the nearly forgotten scent of a perfume you used to wear,
Or the faint ghost of a stain left behind after a wonderful meal.

I bundled up all the cozy sweaters and flannel nightgowns
and the fluffy bathrobe you wore all winter,
and labelled them for the women’s shelter
just the way you told me to when you said,
Us girls have got to stick together.

And when the bags were just too heavy to lift,
I turned off the light and prepared to leave.
But first, I slipped the cashmere sweater
on top of the bag marked Shelter.


Gloria Heffernan’s Exploring Poetry of Presence (Back Porch Productions) won the 2021 CNY Book Award for Nonfiction. She received the 2022 Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Prize. Gloria is the author of the collections Peregrinatio: Poems for Antarctica (Kelsay Books), and What the Gratitude List Said to the Bucket List, (New York Quarterly Books). Her forthcoming chapbook, Animal Grace, was selected for the Keystone Chapbook Series prize. Her work appears in over 100 publications including Poetry of Presence (vol. 2).

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