The beautiful girl on the bus
wears a jacket that comes from a sheep
that was raised on a farm
where men came with their shepherds and flocks
and encamped in the place where a tribe
performed rituals year after year
on its way to the coast.

I look at the cut of the skin
and the turn of the cuffs and lapels
and the way that the buttons are matched
and the tint of the dye that’s soaked in.

The buttons are made from the horn
of a deer that was culled from a herd
in a country where no deer had been
till a hundred years past.

I think of the factory that made
such a jacket as hers,
and the staff and their lives and their loves
and the unions they joined and their fun

watching children at sport at weekends,
when they cheered and they laughed with their friends
when the factory shut for a day
and the sewing-machinists relaxed.

The factory stands in a street
that is named for the tribe
who don’t live in those parts any more.

The beautiful girl on the bus
wears our history over her skin
and it wearies me.

When I get off
I have lived here for 200 years.

from The Sweeping Plain (River Road Press, 2007), Michael Sharkey 2007, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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