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When she’d outgrown a Medium, my daughter

gave me a red ski sweater, strewn with snow

in knitted flakes.  It’s thick—wool—but the sweater’s

extra warmth (despite the chilly rows

of crystals on the yoke of knitted firs)

had nothing to do with heft or wool or scarlet

and everything to do with being hers:

Spirits, bidden by her outgrown clothes,

materialize in what no longer fits her—

revenants of the girl that she outgrows.


And this red cardigan was even more.

Some essence seemed to pass from young to old,

as if it was the girl herself I wore

(or she was wearing me); as if her whole

self, in a reverse metempsychosis

—not a sweater, not a message; her—

was mine; as if what most completely clothes us,

keeping our meager bodies from the cold,

is what belonged to someone else before—

what’s cast off, like a transmigrating soul.


Deborah Warren



(c) 2000; originally printed in Commonweal.  Reprinted
by permission of the author.

Backgrounds by
Purple Woods

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