The Fellow in the Bright Nightgown

W.C. Fields called death “the fellow in the bright nightgown.”
– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

For years it hung inside out on the bathroom doorknob,
Empty sleeves a-droop, tight frilly collar,
That absurd songbird pattern.
Sometimes it lit up the house like a lamp.

No one confessed to buying it. That ugly thing?
And no wearing it: the repeated birds pressed on your eyes
Like anxious hands. A shame. It seemed made for no one.
We forgot about it over and over.

And then one night: that hairless naked stranger in the hall.
He pulled it on, inside out first. It seemed wrong to laugh.
He shook it down over himself,

We gazed up helpless at its billowing glow,
Descending like a parachute lit from within.
We felt the nothing of its perfect fit.

(First published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal Vol. 9, 2023. Thanks to the editors.)

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