Berfrois

Uniforms

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by Barbara Schmitz

It is very hot—92 today—to be wearing
a stocking cap, but the adolescent swaggering
through the grocery store automatic door
doesn’t seem to mind; does not even appear
to be perspiring. The tugged-down hat
is part of his carefully orchestrated outfit:
bagging pants, screaming t-shirt, high-topped
shoes. The young woman who yells to her friends
from an open pickup window is attired
for summer season in strapless stretch
tube top, slipping down toward bountiful
cleavage valley. She tugs it up in front
as she races toward the two who have
just passed a cigarette between them
like a baton on a relay team. Her white
chest gleams like burnished treasure
as they giggle loudly there in the corner
and I glance down to see what costume
I have selected to present myself to
the world today. I smile; it’s my sky blue
shirt with large deliberately faded Peace sign,
smack dab in the middle, plus grey suede
Birkenstocks—a message that “I lived through
the sixties and am so proud.” None of the
young look my way. I round the corner and
walk into Evening descending.


About the Author:

Barbara Schmitz is emeritus professor of English at Northeast College (Norfolk, NE.) where she taught literature and writing for thirty years, coordinated the Visiting Writers Series and was an editor for Elkhorn Review.

She has published in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Laurel Review, Nebraska Review, South Dakota Review, Iconoclast, Poetry Motel, Chiron Review, River Styx, and Kansas Quarterly, and in several anthologies, most recently Nebraska Presence, and Times of Sorrow, Times of Grace. She is the author of Making Tracks (Suburban Wilderness Press), The Lives of the Saints (Main-Traveled Roads #8, l996), How to Get Out of the Body (Sandhills, 1990), The Upside Down Heart (Sandhills, 2003), and How Much Our Dancing Has Improved (Backwaters Press, 2005, winner of the Award for Poetry from the Nebraska Center for the Book).

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Barbara Schmitz. Poem reprinted from the South Dakota Review, Vol. 47, no. 3, 2009, by permission of Barbara Schmitz and the publisher.