Black Jackets

Thom Gunn

 
   In the silence that prolongs the span
Rawly of music when the record ends,
   The red-haired boy who drove a van
In weekday overalls but, like his friends,
   Wore cycle boots and jacket here
To suit the Sunday hangout he was in,
   Heard, as he stretched back from his beer,
Leather creak softly round his neck and chin.
   Before him, on a coal-black sleeve
Remote exertion had lined, scratched, and burned
   Insignia that could not revive
The heroic fall or climb where they were earned.
   On the other drinkers bent together,
Concocting selves for their impervious kit,
   He saw it as no more than leather
Which, taut across the shoulders grown to it,
   Sent through the dimness of a bar
As sudden and anonymous hints of light
   As those that shipping give, that are
Now flickers in the Bay, now lost in night.
   He stretched out like a cat, and rolled
The bitterish taste of beer upon his tongue,
   And listened to a joke being told:
The present was the things he stayed among.
   If it was only loss he wore,
He wore it to assert, with fierce devotion,
   Complicity and nothing more.
He recollected his initiation,
   And one especially of the rites.
For on his shoulders they had put tattoos:
   The group's name on the left, The Knights,
And on the right the slogan Born To Lose.
 
From Collected Poems by Thom Gunn, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1994 by Thom Gunn. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Death's Door by Thom Gunn
The Hug by Thom Gunn
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
The Man with Night Sweats by Thom Gunn
I wake up cold, I who


Further Reading

Poems and Clothing
"What Do Women Want?"
by Kim Addonizio
Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by W. B. Yeats
Black Nikes
by Harryette Mullen
Borrowed Dress
by Cathy Colman
Coat
by Peg Boyers
Couture
by Mark Doty
Dialect of a Skirt
by Erica Miriam Fabri
Dressmaker
by Éireann Lorsung
Duality
by Tina Chang
Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits
by Liam Rector
My Shoes
by Charles Simic
Ode to a Dressmaker's Dummy
by Donald Justice
Old Coat
by Liam Rector
Red Shoes
by Honor Moore
Shirt
by Robert Pinsky
The Plaid Dress
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Upon Julia's Clothes
by Robert Herrick
Wedding Dress
by Michael Waters
White T-shirt
by Lewis Ellingham