A poem by Victoria Pugh
with illustrations by Jane Burnett.
So many hat boxes, stacked up, on shelves by the door –
round, black, with a crest on each one; full of flat caps,
trilbies, bowlers, top hats? Or nothing? Like extra-wide
organ pipes, ready to play a tune in brown dog tooth.
Terraces of wooden trays beneath a glass counter;
each part filled with upright socks, lying sideways,
knitted ties, or driving gloves with cutouts on the back,
suede gloves with stitching, with sheepskin peeking out.
Behind the counter, rows of closed compartments,
goods to be viewed, only on request; each vest or shirt
taken one at a time, unfolded, viewed, folded away.
Asking to be shown anything requires an act of bravery.
I ask you. You take your life from the nearest drawer
and lay it out with its perfect stitching, brown edging,
leather buttons, sleeves of tweed, fully-lined in fawn.
This is not what I asked for. Look in the deepest drawer.
Let me see, what you showed me once, rough blanket
stitches on fraying borders, the red twisted satin cord
that coils around inside you; your fine gold embroidery,
the green watered silk lining you made from your tears.
The hat boxes, those cabinets and containers remain
unopened, and then there’s the stockroom, at the back
of the shop, or maybe in the attic, full of things that have
never seen the light of day. But Jackson’s is closed now.