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This poem is taken from Stand 225, 18(1) March - May 2020.

Eric Paul Shaffer Three Poems
Nin’s Leaf

In a letter, Nin sent a leaf she found. Stiff and elegant,
        the leaf was done with light, but retained the shape
earth and wind framed for fire. Through a long autumn

        on a sidewalk, the leaf had lost most of the matter
of green, and the lattice of veins was all that remained
when autumn wind blew the rest away. I lifted that leaf,

or what was left, the ridges, the stem, the wobbly boxes
        defining the edges between the leaf and the blue,
though most of each had now become the other. I gripped

the sturdy stem and gazed through to the world beyond.
        There were the mountains I know and sea and tide
breaking one way or another on the sand, and the sun I saw

        was the one that brings day to the sky and leaves
night behind. Empty space squared in the veins of the leaf
        now knew only air, the air we breathe as one.

Joe Dickie’s Last Hallowe’en

        The last time I saw my father, he was dressed
as George Washington, wearing the grand, white curls
of a powdered wig, a broad, black belt, with knee socks

        and polished, silver-buckled shoes. His greatcoat
was red, white, and blue, a blue the same faded shade

as sky. The white had weathered to gold, but the red
was right. He carried a thick D.C. phone directory
he had covered with a brown grocery bag as I once did

my schoolbooks. With Magic Marker, he had lettered
        the cover with the words U.S.S. Constitution.
I didn’t bother to tell him. I just watched him walk away

into the windy darkness of sidewalks and bare branches
with an empty pillowcase swinging from his other hand.

On Giving You the Shirt Off My Back

for Alice Marie Hamilton

Not only that you asked for this shirt I bought in Bali, but I knew
you’d treasure an immaculate garment—sleeves, buttons, pocket,
and collar—more than I will. Having worn it in and out of trouble,

through tight spots, beyond sunshine and shade, and in hard places,
I pass it on to you. Though I adore the sharks in gray and black,
mouths agape and grim, bellies glimmering in the fabric of pacific

cobalt and coral waves, I knew you saw deeper. Of all the shirts
on that noisy street, this one, worn well, was a glib bit of fiction

between me and a holiday world, a batik of sleek images I donned
to distract the vendors, tourists, locals, guides, and inevitable lost,
from a man buttoned within the open-throated ocean. But the shirt

you saw concealed easy mystery, in blue profound enough to be
black, emerging in a shape so simple that even a man like me
paused on a noisy market sidewalk to lift the shirt from the rack,

check stitching and seams, and start to barter. In your first glance,
you saw in the lines and figures the meaning of the man dyeing

the fabric, the woman who cut the cloth, the children who sewed
the buttons and released the exact and hangered form. Now, I send
you, at last, this shirt, creases precise and collar pressed, no worse

for the wear since that day those sea shades of white, black, silver,
and hues of blue caught my gaze, and I halted my morning walk,
raised the material to the sun, and purchased instead of passing by.

This poem is taken from Stand 225, 18(1) March - May 2020.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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