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2006-06-04

Liz Tilberis (b. Elizabeth Jane Kelly)
B. 10.27.1948 Shirehampton, England / D. 4.21.1990 New York City
Ovarian Cancer

A long brown raincoat
on a warm and sunny afternoon:
a wide-cut shouldered raincoat
in an umber-dominated rayon blend
that still, in portions, iridesces,
negotiates, at 23rd and 9th, the intersection.
Generously skirted, beltless,
semaphoring echoes of a favored courtier’s cloak,
in the dissolution of a frieze of flesh and t-shirts
the long brown raincoat
crosses, south side, west to east.
Black plastic garbage bags and bungee cords and wheels
outfit a cart, an upright suitcase and a stroller,
which bulge at full capacity with mysterious cargo.
The raincoat, thus encumbered, awaits the northbound light,
back turned to the diner windows.
Past the padded shoulders, curly brown hair
frizzes, graying;
below the hem, slender calves and ankles,
stockinged with dirt streaks, descend
into the ruins of a pair of running shoes.
Cords bind sheaves of newsprint to the wheeled suitcase:
and “One day,” my friend recalls,
“a big gust of wind took some of her newspapers,
she was out these chasing them—as if they were”
the coat, the mane, the gams
“state secrets.” Maybe she’s suing someone,
I suggest. From south to north,
of raincoat, wheels, newspapers, bags, and baggage,
a successful crossing:
landlord or employer, doctor, spouse, police, the mayor,
exes or incumbents, for abuse
or slander, with avalanche momentum
the evidentiary support spills into print
but lies ignored. Nobody bothers to tie it together.
For each tomorrow the city packs pell-mell
and who can count the careless discards?
Then once again the long brown raincoat crosses 9th,
into the shade beside the toes of London Terrace,
leaving bags and baggage moored across the street;
then south-wise, striding, 23rd again.
Beams of rush hour sunlight find out all the iridescent patches
and the dirt streaks look a lot like stockings
for the time it takes to cross
to where remains another cart,
another upright suitcase and another stroller.
Every passage twice;
every effort doubled,
all day long.
Two more crossings and the
convoy is at last assembled
by the iron railings that divide the sidewalk from the lawn
beside the housing for retired garment workers
that used to be.

Consolation Site: Lifetime

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