I can only wear your shirt on certain days
When I feel strong enough to face your burning absence
Mostly I just slip it down loosely on its plastic frame
And slide it into place among nameless rows of fabric
In the back, where I won’t accidentally reach, tucked away
Like an obituary in a file cabinet inside a basement space

I cannot wear your shirt on most days
It once hugged you as I wish now more than anything that
I could take its place; I lose myself in the fabric folds
This is a chalk outline of your body, a tracing of your form
A second skin that I have stolen, cloth that feels like chloroform,
Breathing becomes heavy, too heavy for most days

On days that I feel brave enough to take your shirt out of hiding
I wrap it around my face and try to remember your smell
Your smell that has long faded from the navy cloth residing
I resent that I wore it at all, wore it enough
To wash the last trace of your scent from this earth
I try to breathe you in until I feel my lungs will burst

The smells that once confirmed your place, olfactory senses
Retrieving pictures of your face, your hair, your hands, your neck
Sawdust and sweat and, once a upon a time, cigarettes
I try and remember all your smells, hair-gel cologne and beer and pills
And buttered popcorn and icy-hot and tiger balm and barbeque sauce
The dryer-sheet’s the only smell that lingers on the tattered cloth

I am scared to wash your shirt, scared I’ll make the letters fade
Scared that I’ll wear holes in your skin and rub
The last parts of you away, scared a shirt is not a hug
It won’t hug back; it won’t; it’s not the same
It’s just a tease to remind me that even memories fade
It’s a presence of an absence; it’s a lack of an embrace