Something old

Shirt tales

I’m wearing it
In a picture
Taken by a stranger
Far from home.

Beneath my feet
Washed gravel and smooth grey stones;
Behind me, a river that was snow
Less than an hour before
Falling in foam over stacked black rocks.
Dark pines. Distant peaks.

That summer, it was new,
The bargain canny student eyes
Spot at a hundred paces.
Since then

I’ve lived another lifetime
And many lives. Without the photograph
I’d never believe the farmhand’s hands
Muscles built in harvest fields
Sun-bleached hair and unworn, unlined face
Were ever mine.

And I’m still wearing it
(Time’s been that kind to me at least)
Afraid to let it go –
And with it, the smiling boy
Standing on the river’s edge
Still free to dip a toe or jump right in
Surrender to the roar and flow
Or wander on again.

In her beautiful song ‘This Shirt’, Mary-Chapin Carpenter recalls the events and memories caught up in ‘an old faded piece of cotton’. I have a shirt just like that; it’s 21 years old this summer, but I just can’t bring myself to throw it out. Partly, it’s because I’m thrilled at still being able to get into an item of clothing I had as a student; partly because it’s so darned comfortable;  and partly because it appears in all my holiday photos – including the one I’ve described here, taken in Banff National Park, Canada, on a trip that changed my life.

9 thoughts on “Something old

  1. You are a man after my own heart Nick.

    This beautiful poem reflects so well how I feel about some of the clothes in my wardrobe which still get worn today.


    • Oh, this shirt is just the tip of a very large iceberg for me: riding boots, cowboy hats, musical instruments, books, records, bicycles…my own private museum of sustaining dreams and unrealised ambitions. So pleased you enjoyed the poem, as always.

  2. Thank you John; I’ve been wandering Memory Lane quite a bit this week, and it was fun to find a different way into writing about it. As I mention in the post, I can’t claim it as an original idea; the Mary Chapin Carpenter song is well worth a listen.

  3. Lovely poem.

    I used to have a dress I liked so much and kept it for memory reasons, blue Afghan hippy dress with pink roses. But I threw it away as I needed the space. And it didn’t hurt a bit 😛

  4. Enjoyed this poem – it’s amazing how we age and often feel so distant from our ‘former’ selves.

    I’m not sure I have such an item of clothing, but I certainly have those memories where my face did not see to be quite as lined as it is now! 😀 xx

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