by Jeff Burt
My father wore rough clothing both to the worn fingertip and to the practiced eye, flannel, corduroy, suits with threads pulled out from overuse or snags from working, sitting in soft wood chairs or pews. His look was not one of ease in clothes, and mirrored more a rapid river than a quiet lake. Shirts took on heft above the waist, as if three shoulders were required to fill them, pants where another limb attached to his leg might occupy the space, socks where tension had escaped and multiple bulges could be seen like deflated tires. Except for an occasional cap, no cloth provided comfort. Except the cloth of a pastor, for when he spoke from the pulpit or after at the door his words rose to an eloquence, folksy as in the art that Shakers made of furniture, or what black women made of quilts and song. He knew the depth of the right anecdote plumbed a person’s humility, how a joke might set one to laugh until the truth made that glee a little too uncomfortable and moved the spirit to a grace toward others, the pronouncement always to check one’s self not just before a deed but before a thought of a deed, not pictures of a smooth road or mown grass, but images of gravel, of sorrow, of clumps of soil, briars, happiness one step and grief another. At times like this, the eye-scratch of plaid with an ungracious tie seemed in place, the words of mercy toward one another brought a compassion and harmony alone the clothes could never conceal.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He has contributed to Heartwood, Williwaw Journal, Red Wolf Journal, and Clerestory. He won the Cold Mountain Review 2017 Poetry Prize. His work can be found at www.jeff-burt.com.