Posts Tagged ‘clothes’

All Dressed Up

Before my father died,
he bought me a boxy
cream knit sweater
with crisp straight lines
and an elegant collar,
the kind of sweater
I imagine would be worn
by a woman more polished
than I. But my father insisted
on buying it, as if he
could see in me something
I couldn’t see myself.
Over a year after his death,
I still thank him every time
I slip my arms into the neatly
cuffed sleeves.
I thank him for dressing me
in his great belief in me.
It doesn’t matter
that I never left the house today—
that no-one else saw
how fine the weave,
how smart the cut.
If the sweater could speak
for my father, I imagine it would say,
Roxanne, you’re going to knock it
out of the park today.
All day as I do what life asks of me,
I am held by the love of my father—
a love that continues somehow
to grow. A love I still feel as close to me
as the sweater I’m wearing—
closer than that. Love as close
as the breath in my lungs,
as close as the words thank you
before they even reach my lips.

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Tonight at dinner my daughter and husband
bicker over who will get my plus one ticket
to the Grammys next year. We plan
what we’ll wear to walk the red carpet—
blue for my daughter, no tie for my husband.
I’ll borrow a friend’s green dress and tall boots.
So much to plan already. Where will stay?
Hair down? Rent a car? I wouldn’t want
to meet the moment ill-equipped—
not like this moment in which I am fully prepared
to make an entrance in my slouchy gray sweater
and low, messy bun, prepared to show up
with my short nails and bare face and oud perfume.
I’m so ready for this moment at the dinner table
with its red placemats, homemade mac and cheese,
jazz in the air and quirky conversation.
I don’t even have an album, yet,
and already I know I’m a winner.

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how threadbare these thoughts
I’ve chosen to wear every day—
replacing them with nothing

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I had thought I was already naked.
I had thought I had shed
the mask, the robe, the dress,
the flimsy garments that tease.
I thought I had nothing left
to remove. Then came
slipping out of my laugh.
Taking off my smile.
Dropping my role, my hope.
Losing what I thought I knew.
I could never have said yes to this.
It is happening anyway.
I am less myself, only more.
There is a shawl of compassion, though—
its threads made of sunrise gold.
This. Whoever does the undressing
wraps me now in this.

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That was the year I only bought clothes imported from Bali—
baggy pants in a geometric black-and-white print,
long swishy flowery skirts in bright blues
and thin dresses with intricate knot designs.
I don’t know what became of them all—
Good Will, I suppose. Not that I want them back,
but I miss the girl who felt like a treasure in them,
who wore them lightly, who danced and ran in them,
who twirled in the middle of a field
so the fabric would ripple out and would fall down
in the grass and not worry about the stains.
I miss the girl who shrugged out of those clothes
every time she was near an alpine lake,
slipping nakedly into the icy clear water.
I miss how she wore her life back then,
like something exotic, something beautiful,
something new she couldn’t wait to try on.

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the more I wear this story

of myself, the more

it grows thin, ravels,

a sweater filled with holes—

I fall through them

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I keep staring at it in the catalog at the Ametist linen/modal dress,

in amethyst, a linen shirt dress the catalog describes

as “wonderfully forgiving.” Well, that sounds good, of course.


And the dress, with its shimmering linen, its turquoise

and aubergine flowers, well, it’s beautiful. And perhaps

because I do not feel beautiful, I stare at it as if


it has a secret I need woven into its threads, as if I could buy it

and then be as happy as the model who is walking

through a sunlit field with a large bouquet of long-stemmed


dusky penstemon in her hand. She looks over her shoulder

as if there is someone or something there that delights her,

as surely everything does when she is wearing


her amethyst Ametist linen/modal dress with its “generous fit.”

Perhaps I would rather not remember that I must

be the one who is generous, I must be the one who


is “wonderfully forgiving.” Easier to imagine slipping into a dress

and letting the fabric do all the work. Harder to remember

that beauty is less about how we look and more about


the way we choose to see. Oh, to buy that dress

so that I might notice how little joy it really brings me.

Is this the way we meet the self? Through disappointment?


I decide to make my own catalog. Of my clothes.

I walk through the kitchen, modeling my yoga pants

and a fuzzy top pretending I am me


walking through the kitchen in my yoga pants and fuzzy top.

It’s not much of a stretch. I smile over my shoulder

at the tea pot, the dishes that need washing, a lunch box.


And why not smile? Perhaps there’s a secret I need

woven into something here—in the stack of mail,

in the charging cord, in the marker, the dish towel—


some chance for delight, something beautiful waiting

if only I choose to see the shimmer.

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I did it. Exactly as she said.

I removed everything

from my closets and drawers,

and touched each thing—

every sock, every shirt, every shoe—

and I asked them, “Do you bring me joy?”


Joy, it turns out, wears many clothes.

She likes scarves. Wide necklines.

Black pants. She loves long knit dresses

and tall leather boots. She needs

lots of sweaters and many gardening gloves.


And all the while I did it,

I did as she said, I visualized

the life I want,

which is apparently a life

in which my closet is full of black pants

and scarves and tall leather boots—

a life in which I talk to my clothes

and smile as they whisper back to me,

Joy, Joy, Joy.

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They hang in the closet, their shoulders fading,

all these clothes I can’t bear to take

to the Second Chance.

The black cocktail dress with the plunging neck

its bodice snug, its open back,

made for a sassy uptown evening,

and the deep red jacket, more froth than cloth,

artsy and hand stitched, something to wear

on stage or to an art opening.

The silvery coat that fits like snake skin,

and the long silk skirt just right for a beach

that I’ve never been to in France.

Every day I walk to the same plastic hanger

in the middle of the closet and pull off the same

black cotton dress, somewhat shapeless,

perfect for pulling dandelions in the garden

or going to the grocery store to buy eggs,

for driving my son to math camp or hiking in Bear Creek.

Every day I choose that same black dress, every day, and why not,

when it’s equally well suited for paying bills

and washing breakfast dishes and dusting the unplayed piano.

Just right for waiting on hold for the insurance company

or writing an article about the history of kitchens or

changing the water in the fish tank, or, for that matter,

for cleaning the closet as I look again at all those beautiful clothes

and choose to keep them, let them hang right where they are,

a testament to some other woman I used to be. Huh, she was younger,

but you know, I almost look like her.

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