It’s true then— every word’s a compass, pointing at least four ways; five if you count the rosy bull’s-eye that sits in the center: inscrutable, stubborn or mystical, certainly not letting on. Not just two, which is what some believe ambivalence to mean. Take my father’s good serge coat, for instance: up close the fine diagonal weave and ribbing of twill, the relatively affordable sumptuousness of wool polyester; from a distance, whipcords or pin-stripe marching down a light grey field. Experienced fingers would know the difference. He liked to cut a dapper figure, match the colors in the breast pocket to those of the slip-noose ties. It was a time when shoes were made of real leather, buffed and shined by spit, a swipe of polish. The sky in summer had the chalky quality of canvas. Seersucker and madras, burlap and raw silk— the wind blew its humid torch equally through every window. The sun wrote its progress in swirls of turmeric and ink. Heat or no heat, everyone mostly walked to where they were going. Old history books have engravings— foreigners in the tropics, top-hatted and walrus-heavy in their layered suits; their long, spindly legs sheathed in hose, their women in petticoats and laces. Here, on the first warm day of spring, I slip into flip-flops and cotton voile. I’ve snipped the leather buttons off an old cardigan, saving them for some unknown occasion in which I might revive their charm.


In response to cold mountain (32).

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