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STRAY CLOTHES/Sharon Kessler

My daughter adopts stray clothes.

She is not like other children.

Even at the age of two

she feared the desolation

of abandoned apparel

and went to nursery school

wearing every dress in her closet

on the hottest day of the year.

She learned to tie her shoes

before she learned to talk

and when she came home

she tied all the shoes in the house

to one another

like prisoners in a chain gang


to the bedpost

in an unravelable knot.

Now, at nineteen, she wears shoes

she found on the garden wall,

black leather from the trash,

house dresses from the charity box.

Once she brought a black kitten

home from the bus stop

and nursed it to sleep

with her milky finger

but her true heart

is with those motherless clothes.

She wants to soothe them.

She wants to

press them close

to the lovely fabric

of her skin

and fill them

until they forget

the habitation

of earlier bodies

who stripped them

so cruelly

of human touch.