QUESTIONS CONCERNING BALLGOWNS SEEN IN A NEW YORK DEPARTMENT STORE

Why would a grown woman dress like the Black Knight
in armor and a feathered helm,
squeaking, clomping through a ballroom
as if it were a battlefield?
Or why a black-scaled mermaid–
fishbody and no feet?
How can a mermaid dance?
Slithering, flopping across the deck,
ungracefully hauling along.

Encumbrance, is that what we want?
We have enough, it would seem,
what with dishes and calendars,
lovers and babies and all.

Burkas and veils,  feet broken and bound,
all this stuff of oppression we deplore, and yet
we let them dress us–to dance!–
in mummy wrappings
as if we were dead,
or metallic foil
like salmon
ready for the grill–
Is that what we are?

Our lives are so tight,
squeezed between certainty
and what we think we shall be.
Too many dirty sidewalks, hall carpets,
too many dirty kitchen floors
to tread our ordinary days.

Let us dance, at least, in long scarves,
Isadora-style,
soft hangings of silk and foam,
or in our skins alone.
Let us be loosed, if only in fantasy–
no bones or stays–
our bare feet free
to tripple along the world’s moonlit,
flowerstrewn unpaved floors.

 

(Written in 2001, after a trip to the City.)

 

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