Old Leather - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Old Leather

The dogwood I planted

last year has sprouted darts,

rocks piled on the side,

boastful testaments,

to pick and shovel,

digging bar,

Yes I did it



Just across from the


the trunk of a neighbor,

now gray and desiccated,

still a nearly  perfect 4×4.

Could be the rail of a raised bed

if the chainsaw won’t flood.


The stream below,

banks sprouting skunk grass,

feeder springs swelling,


brushes on a snare drum

through riffles, fallen wood,



A surprising wind

brings a timpani.


I return to the graying

trunk, holes poorly drilled,

the woodpeckers’ challenge.


I pull my leather jacket tighter,

its graying, too.


The jacket, my dad’s loving

purchase from his trip to Baltimore

forty-six years ago.

The label says, “Exclusively

for the Brass Rail by Luis Alvear,”

XL, Made in Korea.


The jacket, once covering

turtleneck or sweater,

now for grilling and smoking,

salmon, pipe, cigar, brisket, weed,

gathering kindling,

toasting marshmallows,

playing grandpa.


My father’s leather jackets are in my

closet, pocked and dry

like the gray trunk,

only cowboy brown.


He’s been gone 15 years.

His jackets don’t fit.

But I can’t let them go,

even the one with the prune pit

in the pocket.


What will become of my own

once-black James Dean

bad-boy jacket?

It might fit my son,

daughter, son-in-law.


Or it might sit in a closet,

become only a burden.

Or will it be dropped on the

loading dock at Goodwill?


Do you want a receipt?


Should I keep something in the



Should I relieve them of the burden,

take my jacket to Goodwill,


pick up the receipt


before the woodpeckers

come for me?









About the author

Len Shindel

Len Shindel began working at Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Plant in 1973, where he was a union activist and elected representative in local unions of the United Steelworkers, frequently publishing newsletters about issues confronting his co-workers. His nonfiction and poetry have been published in the “Other Voices” section of the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Pearl, The Mill Hunk Herald, Pig Iron, Labor Notes and other publications. After leaving Sparrows Point in 2002, Shindel, a father of three and grandfather of seven, began working as a communication specialist for an international union based in Washington, D.C. The International Labor Communications Association frequently rewarded his writing. He retired in 2016. Today he and his wife, Maxine, live in Garrett County where he enjoys writing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking, fly-fishing and fighting for a more peaceful, sustainable and safe world for his grandchildren and their generation Contact the author.

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