American Life in Poetry: Column 304


After my mother died, one of the most difficult tasks for my sister and me was to take the clothes she’d made for herself to a thrift shop. In this poem, Frannie Lindsay, a Massachusetts poet, remembers a similar experience.

The Thrift Shop Dresses

I slid the white louvers shut so I could stand in your closet
a little while among the throng of flowered dresses
you hadn’t worn in years, and touch the creases
on each of their sleeves that smelled of forgiveness
and even though you would still be alive a few more days
I knew they were ready to let themselves be
packed into liquor store boxes simply
because you had asked that of them,
and dropped at the door of the Salvation Army
without having noticed me
wrapping my arms around so many at once
that one slipped a big padded shoulder off of its hanger
as if to return the embrace.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Frannie Lindsay, from her most recent book of poems, Mayweed, The Word Works, 2009, and reprinted by permission of Frannie Lindsay and the publisher. The poem first appeared in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Vol. 34, no. 1, Winter 2009. Introduction copyright © 2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.