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Half-Sleeping and a Lilac Shirt

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I wake up at 6:30am for only one reason and that's because Garrison Keillor is on then as the mellifluous reader-of-poetry on the daily Writer's Almanac. I rarely feel compelled to follow-up, but this poem has been in my Palm's to-do list since it was aired. I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to listen to it read by Garrison Keillor.

Farming in a Lilac Shirt
I opened the Sears catalog.
It was hard to decide-dress shirts
were all white the last time
I bought one, for Emma's funeral.
I picked out a color called plum,
but when the shirt arrived,
it seemed more the color of lilacs.
Still, it was beautiful.
No one I knew had a shirt like this.

After chores on Sunday, I dressed
for church. Suddenly the shirt
seemed to be a sissy color,
and I held it up near the window.
In the sun the lilac looked more lilac,
more lovely, but could a man
wear a shirt that color? Someone 
might say, "That's quite the shirt."
I wore the old shirt to church.

And every Saturday night I thought,
Tomorrow I'll wear the shirt.
Such a sad terrible waste-to spend
good money on a shirt, a shirt
I even liked, and then not wear it.
I wore the shirt once, on a cold day,
and kept my coat buttoned.

In spring I began wearing the shirt
for everyday, when I was sure
no one would stop by. I wore the shirt
when I milked the cows and in the field
when I planted oats-it fit perfectly.
As I steered the John Deere,
I looked over my shoulder and saw
lilac against a blue sky
filled with white seagulls
following the tractor, and not once
did I wipe my nose on my sleeve.

Poem: "Farming In A Lilac Shirt," by Leo Dangel from Home From the Field: Collected Poems (Spoon River Poetry Press). 

Sep 26, 2002 08:45 AM