Literary Hook: A poem inspired by Intimate Apparel

If you have been following our series about writers’ opportunities at The Clearing in Door County, Wisconsin, you already know The Clearing is a magical, inspirational place. Following is a poem from Susan Gibson, who was in my workshop. Susan has been a pharmacist for 30 years and is a lifelong lover of literature and avid reader. She lives in the Milwaukee area with her husband and two cats.

“The Coat” was inspired by by the play Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage. It is the story of a black woman from the South who finds herself in New York City during the early 1900s, working in fashionable undergarments for ladies. The poem explores the relationship between the woman and the man (an orthodox Jew) who supplies the fabrics. I think you will agree the poem is both lyrical and poignant.

The Coat

He receives the gift as he would a sacrament.

Anointed by her grace,

Illuminated by his unconfessed longing,

Unaware that she had blessed it

With her own forbidden yearning,

Desire she must keep hidden

Like her stitches deep within the fabric.

Their world would not approve.

In silent formality he wraps the coat around him

With the reverence of a priest

Putting on vestments in an ancient Hebrew ritual.

It enfolds him as her arms never will.

His hand strokes the fabric—smooth and lovely

As her unapproachable face.

from the June 27-July 5, 2007, issue

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