American Life in Poetry: Column 804


What do we select to keep with us when someone we love has died? Here’s Gail Mazur, who lives in Massachusetts, opening her closet door to show us. This poem originally appeared in the journal Ploughshares. Mazur’s new and selected poems, Land’s End, is due out this year from the University of Chicago Press.

Blue Work Shirt

I go into our bedroom closet
with its one blue work shirt, the cuffs

frayed, the paint stains a loopy non-
narrative of color, of spirit.

Now that you are bodiless
and my body’s no longer the body you knew,

it’s good to be reminded every morning
of the great mess, the brio of art-making.

On the floor, the splattered clogs
you called your “Pollock shoes.”

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. “Blue Work Shirt” from Land’s End: New & Selected Poems by Gail Mazur. Originally published in Ploughshares. Copyright ©2020 by The University of Chicago. Reproduced by permission. Introduction copyright © 2020 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.