Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Closet

On nails on the inside of the door of the shallow closet:
A short homesewn shift of coarse white cotton, square beneath arms and across the chest and back: a knot in the right shoulderstrap.
A baby's dress, homemade. The top is grey denim; the collar is trimmed in pink; the skirt, in a thinner material, is yellow-and-white checks.
A long homemade shift of coarse white cotton, same rectilinear design as above. A tincture of perspiration and of sex.
On the closet floor, to the left, a heap of overalls, dresses, shirts, bedding, etc. ready for laundering.
On a shelf above, three or four patchwork quilts of various degrees of elaborateness and inventiveness of pattern, and in various degrees of raggedness, age, discoloration, dirt absorption, and sense-of-vermin, stuffed with cotton and giving off a strong odor.
On nails along the wall, overalls, dresses, children's clothing, the overalls taking the shape of the knee and thigh; an odor of sweated cloth.
On the floor to the right, folded one onto the other, two homemade pallets for children: flat rectangular sacks of thin white cloth thinly padded with cotton.
On the floor at center, two by two, toes to the wall, a pair of women's black slippers, run-over at the low heels. A pair of workshoes, very old, molded to the shape of the feet. A pair of girl's slippers, whited over scrubbed clay and streaked again with clay. A pair of little-boy's high black shoes, broken at the toes and worn through the soles, the toes curled up sharply; looped straps at the heels; thick clay scrubbed off. A little girl's slightly narrower and softer high tan button shoes, similarly worn and curled, similarly scrubbed. A pair of little boy's high black button shoes, similarly worn, curled, and scrubbed. One infant's brown sandal. These shoes, particularly those of the children, are somewhat gnawn, and there are rat turds on the floor.
--James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

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