Little Black Dress
My mother taught me
to eat the center of the cabbage,
how the heart of it is peppery
when picked at cold and raw.
I cut the head in half,
carve around the middle
with my sharpest knife,
take a slice of the core
and, in that bite, see
her and me, younger, at the sink.
So I run for it---
my necklace of delicate
red stones tucked deep
in a pocket. For endless blocks
I am night’s moving target
on slippery streets. These heels,
spiked shoes, slow me,
making it tricky. My little black
dress is drenched heavy, a sack
of chill, all pins and nails.
Thirty-two or so tits, all attached,
sucking one-way pleasure. Nothing
takes me. All of it rotten old lady breath,
pumped laughter. Don’t care, I’ve been
nursing so long. Ask me another time,
when I’m in cocktail dress, that sixties shift.
I’ll drag deep on my smoke, throw my head
sideways, smile. Look at you from a distance,
give the right answer. After all, it’s a pool party.
Or ask in the middle of night, before
the pill takes effect. Guilt heap on a pillow,
spilt milk. Why this, why that.
Layer by layer, I peel
away previous parts,
shedding my nylon stockings
in high heat, pulling pins
from my hair, tugging off
my too-tight dress,
moving my eyes across
this body, weeding out
the deadened flesh,
the old assumptions.
the inside of my lips.
I chew and scratch
every loose piece,
every rough edge.
I give myself away in
nervous bird gestures,
batting at the small,
Lady, you are moving sideways,
waiting, waiting, waiting
to lift up and over in the wind
of this circus you know.
Good thing, that cape, and your anti-gravity
magic. How else the trampoline
and your life, as it is, inside the tent?
Make a new fur collar and a pair of spirit-
pointed shoes. Keep your blackbird hat fastened,
watch for a taxi. All the rings are packed away
in a box with the snapshots, at arm’s length,
just inches from some truth, that stretch beyond.
Put your arms out, baby, and start to flap.
Lift your skirts and fly.
(This is the poetry that accompanies the installation of Little Black Dress. It is heard on the video and segments can be written on the wall behind the sculptures, or in one museum, it was printed on cards which were given to visitors.)