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The Overcoat

By John W. Sexton

ravens cough
black sky unravels
rain

I need a new overcoat, but I have nothing in my pocket except fifteen non-shillings. In the city I come across a laneway that slants down towards the river. Emaciated cats laze in shop windows. Halfway down is a clothes shop called the inspector of tongues. The floor of the shop is covered in money, loose coins glitter under the lamps. I step inside and a female shop assistant comes up and offers me a cigarette. Somewhat surprised I decline, but she lights one for herself and begins to smoke. Tiny sparks begin fluttering from the tip of the cigarette, and I notice that as they touch her clothes they start to burn rapidly-increasing holes in the fabric. She continues to smoke, but this time with a strange enthusiasm, and sparks are everywhere. I look down at myself and can see that my clothes too are dissolving under the sparks. Within seconds we are both naked. Having no pocket to contain them my fifteen non-shillings are rolling all over the floor. “Perhaps you would like an overcoat, sir?” says the shop assistant. From a rack she unhooks an enormous coat. She begins to pull it over my arms, and then steps inside it herself. Standing in front of me, her back against my body, she begins to close up the buttons. As the last button is squeezed into place, I can feel our bodies fusing together. The coat is a perfect fit, but I am no longer myself. A stranger walks into the shop and I offer him a cigarette.

worsted cuttings
a sempstress sucks blood
from her finger

 

John W. Sexton (Republic of Ireland) is a poet, short-story writer, dramatist, children’s novelist, radio scriptwriter, and broadcaster. He is the author of three collections of poetry, The Prince’s Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995); Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock; and, most recently, Vortex (Doghouse, 2005). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien Press, and have been translated into Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.

John is a frequent VerbSap contributor.

Photo "Cat At Window" courtesy of Helene Douchet, Lyon, France.

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