If I should ever have to choose to be
a pocket or a coat, my answer is a pocket, plain.
Oh yes, to wrap the world in warm is fine,
to comfort children caught by snow or storm,
to zip and tuck unhappy souls on luckless roads, no doubt.
But still I think I wouldn’t choose to be a winter coat.
Why then, you ask, a pocket?
If I may catch the crumbs of something good and gone,
contain the angry fist, relax the anxious palm;
if I may hold a handkerchief where precious tears are pressed,
keep safe a favourite glove, or perhaps a letter felt and left;
if I may hold a secret till it’s ready to be spoke,
then a pocket plain and simple would I choose above a coat.
Some would say the woman with long red hair merely sells reclaimed clothes; she doesn’t call out her wares; doesn’t lean on people to buy unwanted goods; doesn’t exclaim ‘beautiful’ when someone tries something on; doesn’t cluck, smile or pamper. She sits quiet, still and reading outside her stall, waiting for people to find her and buy her merchandise.
But to those touched by the butterfly’s wings, clothes are jewels. And when I sat at her feet for the seventh year, she may have recognised my aura and, I am almost certain, told me a tale.
“I dig these clothes from gold mines, I steal these beauties from the washing lines of kings, in my cave I keep silver spiders aweaving silken webs, I sweep dew drops from fresh smelling early morning grass and stitch them on as sequins, I snip vivid rainbows with scissors as sharp as words and hang them upon angels to ascertain the fit.
“And more than this,” she said; “my buttons are the imaginations of wise men mistaken for fools, my wool is wound by storytellers, my pockets are filled deep with the rich promise of new life and my sleeves are as long as the breath of wind. My shoes have travelled the loaded road of dreamers and collected the heavy dust of prayer.”
I went to the rail where the clothes were hanging – cerise, rose, pitch, scarlet, emerald and indigo. With new eyes I saw each crease was a quest for answers, every seam was a river, decorations were celebrations, slips and tears were crags and ravines and hats were mountain peaks.
As I paid for my chosen garment with a poem, the woman with long red hair raised her eyes in slight acknowledgement and turned back to her book as though she had not uttered a word.