Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits

Liam Rector - 1949-2007
Fat Southern men in their summer suits,
Usually with suspenders, love to sweat
Into and even through their coats,

Taking it as a matter of honor to do so,
Especially when the humidity gets as close
As it does each Southern summer.

Some think men could do better
By just going ahead and taking the damned
Coats off, but the summer code stays

Because summer is the time
For many men, no matter what their class,
To be Southern Gentlemen by keeping

Those coats on. So late in life here I am
Down here again, having run to fat
(As Southern men tend), visiting the farm

Where my grandfather deposited
So much of his own working sweat,
Where Granddaddy never bought into any

Of "that Southern Gentleman crap."
Up north where I landed in the urban
Middle class I am seldom caught

Not wearing a coat of some kind. I love
The coats, and though I love them most
In the fall I still enact the summer code,

I suppose, because my father and I did buy
That code, even though I organized students
To strike down any dress code whatsoever

In the high school I attended (it was a matter
Of honor). And it still puts me in good humor
To abide with the many pockets, including

One for a flask. So whether it's New York,
Vermont, or Virginia, the spectacle
Of the summer seersucker proceeds,

Suspenders and all, and I lean into the sweat
(Right down to where the weather really is)
Until it has entirely soaked through my jacket.

More by Liam Rector

Old Coat

Dressed in an old coat I lumber
Down a street in the East Village, time itself

Whistling up my ass and looking to punish me
For all the undone business I have walked away from,

And I think I might have stayed 
In that last tower by the ocean,

The one I built with my hands and furnished
Using funds which came to me at nightfall, in a windfall....

Just ahead of me, under the telephone wires
On this long lane of troubles, I notice a gathering

Of viciously insane criminals I'll have to pass
Getting to the end of this long block in eternity.

There's nothing between us. Good
I look so dangerous in this coat.

The Remarkable Objectivity of Your Old Friends


We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.

We called other friends—the ones
Your mother hadn't called—and told them
What you had decided, and some said

What you did was right; it was the thing
You wanted and we'd just have to live
With that, that your life had been one

Long misery and they could see why you
Had chosen that, no matter what any of us
Thought about it, and anyway, one said,

Most of us abandoned each other a long
Time ago and we'd have to face that
If we had any hope of getting it right.

Age Moves


Age moves in the hound
As it was in me moving
Through forest I found

As to dog I went
That year scrounging
Through Manhattan....

The wood opened out,
Unlikely in the city,
As to boy slandering

To leave his fitful home,
Bright he might survive
With his pen-knife only.