Juan Felipe Herrera’s ‘Inside the Jacket’

I remember, many years ago

a mexicano working in a sweat shop

on E Street by the library.

I could see him through the window —

a tailor by trade.

Thought about asking him

to make me a suit for graduation.

His fingers were so thin, so dark.

Usually, he labored on a sport coat.

Could tell the owner had granted him


He seemed happy and at ease.

One evening, I passed by and gazed

at his finery; his project:

venom lacing

a serpent feverishly winding out of the earth

wrapping around the furniture, into the ceiling,

a gold lacing, swelling,

pouring out into the night,

an iridescent skin, leaping

out of his scarred hands,

spreading across the city.

From: “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (The University of Arizona Press)