Carl Sandburg (18781967). Chicago Poems. 1916.

94. Shirt

I REMEMBER once I ran after you and tagged the fluttering shirt of you in the wind.
Once many days ago I drank a glassful of something and the picture of you shivered and slid on top of the stuff.
And again it was nobody else but you I heard in the singing voice of a careless humming woman.
One night when I sat with chums telling stories at a bonfire flickering red embers, in a language its own talking to a spread of white stars:
              It was you that slunk laughing
              in the clumsy staggering shadows.
Broken answers of remembrance let me know you are alive with a peering phantom face behind a doorway somewhere in the city’s push and fury
Or under a pack of moss and leaves waiting in silence under a twist of oaken arms ready as ever to run away again when I tag the fluttering shirt of you.


You can find Sandburg's entire collected poems at

Some shirts are very ordinary.
Some shirts are irregular.
Some shirts are quite disposable.
Other shirts have a life all their own.

You know the kind of shirts of which I speak. They may be fairly recent additions to the wardrobe, but they most likely have been poking around for many years. You cannot bear to part with them. When someone suggests they have outlived their usefulness you snap the garment away from the offending party and return it to its righteous place in the sacred temple that is your wardrobe.

"Are you wearing a shirt, sir?"

So, once upon a time you thought it would be a good idea to buy this crazy shirt. It has now become a complete embarassment when you bring it out of the closet and drape it over your frame. Still, it is a sentimental journey that stirs the world of memories whenever you look at it. These things are precious and fragile. Why doesn't today's disposable society understand that? You bought it to impress that girl in the deli who always smiled so cute when she makes that reuben sandwich for you. Oh, that was so long ago.

Look, only a moron could obsess for years over a pair of pants. Pants come and go. There are really nice pairs of pants out there. The painfully misinformed refer to them as "slacks." Lets not bring that into the equation. And how about socks? Who really cares about them? They were made to develop holes and become scrub rags or become helpful in checking the oil in your car. We are talking about shirts, the element of your wardrobe that makes an immediate impact and plays the key role in making a first impression. People remember your shirt, what the shirt said, its color, its design. They don't remember your knickers unless you wet them during the conversation. Then it really doesn't matter anymore, does it?

T-shirts have a special life force in the rotation. We all know about the clothing rotation. We change it up a bit, but generally the same six or seven things remain in the rotation until new items enter the equation. Then we have the backlog of clothing items only worn for special occasions or worn during private moments. That t-shirt that reminds you that you went to a godawful film festival in 1987 stays in the drawer unless you are planning on spending the day alone weeding the garden or reading Nietzsche. T-shirts are the most obvious harbingers of memory and reflection. They make researching personal history easier for the less in tune. However, when you are in tune, then the chorus can sing from every level of your closet and bureau.

Don't hate the shirt. It has embraced your body more warmly and more often than any human being. It has made love to your torso so often and never got jealous when you selected one of its associates to wear for the day. How can you be mad at a shirt? If only people were as flimsy and form fitting.

Remember the shirt.
Remember where it has taken you.
Remember who purchased it for you.
Remember the reasons why.
Then wear it again.

Shirt (?), n. [OE. schirte, sherte, schurte; akin to Icel. skyrta, Dan. skiorte, Sw. skjorta, Dan. skiort a petticoat, D. schort a petticoat, an argon, G. schurz, schurze, an argon; all probably from the root of E. short, as being originally a short garment. See Short, and cf. Skirt.]

A loose under-garment for the upper part of the body, made of cotton, linen, or other material; -- formerly used of the under-garment of either sex, now commonly restricted to that worn by men and boys.

Several persons in December had nothing over their shoulders but their shirts. Addison.

She had her shirts and girdles of hair. Bp. Fisher.


© Webster 1913.

Shirt, v. t. & i. [imp. & p. p. Shirted; p. pr. & vb. n. Shirting.]

To cover or clothe with a shirt, or as with a shirt.



© Webster 1913.

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