Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond


I am on vacation.

I get up early and work while it is still dark out. I work by feeling. I lie in the grass. Here the body is at its best just before it is captured. Jackson Pollock balancing a fresh can of paint over a big canvas he will never touch.

You told me once that “we should have one country in mind that we want to visit but never get to” that “the good heart will always have bad timing because of a metronome we’ve left behind or sent ahead with the rest of the luggage.”

That you think in a different timezone entirely. That you wake up facing Mecca without even remembering why.

That’s when I want to tell you a few words from my public education, but everything I’ve learned has only been about myself.

To think of you in a living room, eyes tight in the ease of the afternoon, distrusting the fortune cookies from last night’s Chinese still unopened on the kitchen table.

Perhaps it is because of my drinking. A waiter yelling, “hot plates, very hot plates,” in a foreign language. I cannot see him, but maybe for a moment I am here, you are here, until like a quick drop of laudanum it is gone.

What is captured of a ghost on camera is not this residual nakedness, but a white shirt left behind. In the motel-fire, we lose only what we couldn’t travel without.


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