The poem describes the relationship between the speaker and his suit, which changes dynamically over the course of the poem while remaining intimate throughout. In the beginning, the speaker imagines the suit “filled/by my vanity, my love,/my hope, my body.” When the speaker emerges from the shower naked and sleepy he is vulnerable. They are as physically close as possible: “my legs seek the hollow of your legs.” The suit protects him, allowing him to enter the world and develop his identity as a poet. The speaker and the suit face many challenges together: the wind, the night, the “streets and the struggle.” And they will also, one day, die together too. Whether they die from an “enemy bullet” or from old age, the speaker assumes that they will die together—another form of intimacy. The suit embraces him twice, and assumes various intimate roles as if it were a lover, a friend, a child, a spouse, a soul, a life-long companion. In the end the speaker forgets the suit, because they “are one being/and shall be always.” He is entirely secure in their eternal bond; they are one. They are not only “one being,” but “one body.” There is no distance between them.
The source of poetry
The speaker has to “work my way into my poetry.” He does this by getting dressed and walking in the world, noticing people and things, which then animates him: “the things,/men, women,/events and struggles/constantly shaping me/constantly confronting me,/setting my hands to the task,/opening my eyes, creasing my lips.” Just as his suit waits for him to get dressed in the morning, poetry is already there, waiting for him to enter into it. His imagination is awakened and he is able to speak in response to the struggles of his people.
The speaker imagines dying with his suit in two ways: the “dramatic” scenario of being shot by an “enemy bullet” and the “simple” way of dying naturally of old age and being buried in the earth. Either way, he assumes that they will die together. The language challenges common assumptions about the division between humans and objects: we are mortal, while objects like suits are not. In personifying his suit, he is giving it life, so it is logical to imagine its death. The poem demonstrates that the relationship between the speaker and the suit is so intertwined that they cannot live without each other.
Ode to My Suit Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ode to My Suit is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.