Client Nightgown, photo by James C. Henderson
Categories Poems in the Time of Pandemic, Poetry
Location New Brighton, Minnesota
Date April 12, 2020

James C. Henderson

The birds are singing this morning
just as they do every morning
waking us each to our fate, our duty, our purpose.
but I have precious little purpose
except for the one I give each day.

My purpose this morning is to find my wife’s nightgown.
She lost it or I lost it doing the laundry
she says I lost it—whatever—
Somehow it just disappeared
on its routine journey from laundry room to bedroom.

So, I’ve decided to search the house
top to bottom for it
going through every drawer one-by-one
unfolding the sheets, restacking the towels
padding the socks, rifling through my underwear.

It lies somewhere
a white and airy confection of rayon
a cool and amorphous cloud
stuck maybe between a shirt and a sweater
or mixed in with her slips, my pajamas.

Smelling of cedar, safe in the dark
it waits, a cluster of diamonds in a seam of coal
a sparkling commitment to love
a shimmering symbol of hope
of what once was and might be again.

Like a scientist searching for a vaccine or a cure
I am systematic in my pursuit
narrowing the options
eliminating each possibility as it occurs to me
hitting only dead ends and disappointment.

Yet, even as logic fails and my attempts to trace it flop
I feel it is close. Just as I obsess over retrieving it
I sense it seeks again its form.
If it were a snake it would bite me
as my dear departed aunt would say.

I know my hunt is a less-than-noble quest
there are so many more important things to do
than stay at home and out of the way.
But if I can find my wife’s nightgown
If I can solve the riddle of its disappearance
If I can bring back some normalcy to our lives
If I can make my wife happy
I will have fulfilled my purpose
I will have done what I have been put here this earth to do.