Bespoke Suit, 1918
I keep a thick black and red ledger
where men’s measurements are recorded,
how tight the cuff, how close the collar,
to know where to cut the cloth.
I know how the fabric bends in the elbow,
how the knees peak as they stride forward.
I remember this particular suit, a fine Ulster tweed
for young John Knox, the bank manager’s son.
His shoulders lined perfectly to the seams,
arms that filled the sleeves, jacket lapels
buttoned neatly across his chest at his last fitting,
only the hems needed to be turned up.
He never did retrieve it, one of many in coarse khaki
whose bodies fell instead in a churned-up land,
handkerchiefs littered the air with their intricate
initials before surrendering into the Somme’s soil.
His younger brother called in to collect it
just last week, and with his father’s words
urging and echoing in his head he tried it on
but was unable to fill all that expectant space.
We are terrible prophets yet we prophesy,
there were so many suits planned, ordered,
now spurned by the unison of singers,
so much material is now left on the roll.
The bell rings, a customer awaits.
Bespoke Suit, 1918 by Glen Wilson won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.