My Mother’s Coat on a Stranger (Phone Call with My Sister) by James Harms

My Mother’s Coat on a Stranger (Phone Call with My Sister)

No way, really?
Was it the blue one? The puffy one
she wore those last few years
that matched her eyes
sort of too much, as if
everything about her, her entire
presence was staring at you?
You think the woman bought it
at Goodwill? Do you remember
calling me from the drive-thru drop-off
sobbing about the teenage girl
who’d taken the bags of clothes
from the trunk, how you stood there
crying as she quietly lifted each
one and walked them through
the automatic sliding glass doors?
You told me, she had a nose ring
and lilac hair, remember?
Was she taller or shorter
than Mom, the lady wearing her coat?
Do you think Goodwill waits
a while before selling the clothes
of the dead; I mean it’s been almost
a year? Talk about a grace period.
Can you imagine seeing
her coat on some person crossing
the street in front of your car
a day or two after you donated it,
a week or two after she died?
Would you honk
or hit the gas? Or would you just
sit there long after the light
turned green and cry? Yeah,
me, too. A lot of green lights.


James Harms is the author of ten books including, most recently, ROWING WITH WINGS (Carnegie Mellon University Press 2017).