Tie in My Pocket

I’ve been a fellow at the Adirondack Center for Writing’s Anne LaBastille Writing Residency down in the mountains for the last two weeks. Here is one poem to come out of that excellent and intensive program.

Tie in My Pocket

Among things I learned from my father:
how to shave with a Gillette adjustable razor–
how to tie a necktie.

But by late in the turtleneck ’70s I had lost
the knack of it and stood like a schoolboy
while he tied one for me once again.

Care for one’s dignity also being among
my father’s lessons, I loosened the knot later
and tucked the still tied tie into my suit coat pocket.

There it stayed in years afterward, ready to deploy
on those few occasions so formal as to require
“the noose” — my father’s funeral among them.

By the ’90s the tie sported a down-at-heels
funkiness, a set of permanent wrinkles
along with a spot impervious to OxyClean.

With reluctance I consigned it to the bin
and soldiered on toward the millennium by
tie-defying recourse to round-collar shirts,

which left me ill prepared in late 2000 when
I suspected the guise of male respectability
might be to my advantage in a job interview.

Fatherless now, nearing fifty, too shamed to solicit
peer support, I went to www.dressforsuccess.com
and downloaded pictograms from tying-a-necktie.html.

Printed out and tucked into the pocket of the same
(now vintage) suit coat, they comprise a virtual
stand-in for the disheveled family relic.

I still pull this cheat sheet out on requisite occasions
to guide me at the bathroom mirror until the knot
is neat and the narrow end is tucked behind the wide.

Emerging well-kempt, my throat is constricted
in cruel conformity to masculine rites
and by the memory of lessons learned and lost.

Note: published in “Light Year” 2019 Liberty Street Books

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