by Vincent Francone

Thinner than eyelid skin: my heels through the snow.
An old man approaches. His hair is patchy and he wears
an overcoat beaten by the weather
with one button suspended and the fabric well-worn
just like my old overcoat, the one
an ex-girlfriend made me donate
after it’d been on my back for seven winters
until she said she wouldn’t be seen in public
with me looking so shabby—
“It’s me or the coat, your decision.”

I chose poorly.
The coat went to the Salvation Army
on Grand Avenue under the overpass
the one that smells of coffee and chocolate.
I want to ask this stranger where he got the coat
but think better of it, let him pass
with my favorite garment
the one with the stain on the back
shaped almost like Illinois
were Indiana to get bold and press its border west.

PHOTO: Homeless man from Batman Begins (2005), a film shot in Chicago, where the author lives.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a true story. I had an overcoat that I loved—I thought it looked rather cool. I was told to get rid of it, which I did, which I immediately regretted. The homeless man in the poem was wearing the same coat—I’m sure of it. I thought briefly of offering him money for the garment, but that seemed ridiculous. I also thought of asking if I might search the pockets, as I am sure I left a note or something of interest in the coat, but again, that seemed like a bad idea. In the end, I let it go (again). I lost the coat twice, but sometimes you have let these things go.


Vincent Francone
 is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015.  He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit vincentfrancone.com to read his work or say hi.