Poem: Yellow Glove

Yellow Glove
–Nao­mi Shi­hab Nye
From Yel­low Glove, reprint­ed in Words Under the Words: Select­ed Poems

What can a yel­low glove mean in a world of motor­cars and governments?

I was small, like every­one. Life was a string of pre­cau­tions: Don’t kiss the squir­rel before you bury him, don’t suck can­dy, pop bal­loons, drop water­mel­ons, watch TV. When the new gloves appeared one Christ­mas, tucked in soft tis­sue, I heard it trail­ing me: Don’t lose the yel­low gloves.

I was small, there was too much to remem­ber. One day, wav­ing at a stream—the ice had cracked, win­ter chip­ping down, soon we would sail boats and roll into ditches—I let a glove go. Into the stream, sucked under the street. Since when did streets have mouths? I walked home on a des­per­ate road. Gloves cost mon­ey. We didn’t have much. I would tell no one. I would wear the yel­low glove that was left and keep the oth­er hand in a pock­et. I knew my mother’s eyes had tears they had not cried yet, I didn’t want to be the one to make them flow. It was the prayer I spoke secret­ly, fold­ing socks, lin­ing up don­keys in win­dowsills. To be good, a promise made to the roach­es who scout­ed my clos­et at night. If you don’t get in my bed, I will be good. And they lis­tened. I had a lot to fulfill.

The months rolled down like tow­els out of a machine. I sang and drew and fat­tened the cat. Don’t scream, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t fight—you could hear it any­where. A peb­ble could show you how to be smooth, tell the truth. A field could show how to sleep with­out walls. A stream could remem­ber how to drift and change—next June I was stir­ring the stream like a soup, telling my broth­er din­ner would be ready if he’d only hur­ry up with the bread, when I saw it. The yel­low glove draped on a twig. A mud­dy sur­vivor. A qui­et flag.

Where had it been in the three gone months? I could wash it, fold it in my win­ter draw­er with its sis­ter, no one in that world would ever know. There were mir­a­cles on Har­vey Street. Chil­dren walked home in yel­low light. Trees were reborn and gloves trav­eled far, but returned. A thou­sand miles lat­er, what can a yel­low glove mean in a world of bank­books and stereos?

Part of the dif­fer­ence between float­ing and going down.

Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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