James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

The Little Coat


Here's his ragged 'roundabout';
Turn the pockets inside out:
See; his pen-knife, lost to use,
Rusted shut with apple-juice;
Here, with marbles, top and string,
Is his deadly 'devil-sling,'
With its rubber, limp at last
As the sparrows of the past!
Beeswax--buckles--leather straps--
Bullets, and a box of caps,--
Not a thing of all, I guess,
But betrays some waywardness--
E'en these tickets, blue and red,
For the Bible-verses said--
Such as this his mem'ry kept--
'Jesus wept.'

Here's a fishing hook-and-line,
Tangled up with wire and twine,
And dead angle-worms, and some
Slugs of lead and chewing-gum,
Blent with scents that can but come
From the oil of rhodium.
Here--a soiled, yet dainty note,
That some little sweetheart wrote,
Dotting,--'Vine grows round the stump,'
And--'My sweetest sugar lump!'
Wrapped in this--a padlock key
Where he's filed a touch-hole--see!
And some powder in a quill
Corked up with a liver pill;
And a spongy little chunk
Of 'punk.'

Here's the little coat--but O!
Where is he we've censured so!
Don't you hear us calling, dear?
Back! come back, and never fear.--
You may wander where you will,
Over orchard, field and hill;
You may kill the birds, or do
Anything that pleases you!
Ah, this empty coat of his!
Every tatter worth a kiss;
Every stain as pure instead
As the white stars overhead:
And the pockets--homes were they
Of the little hands that play
Now no more--but, absent, thus
Beckon us.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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