I’ve been picking up poetry books lately, and remembering how much I used to enjoy reading them and that I would like to again. Poetry, at its best, is the careful practice of the ‘economy of language,’ a back-to-school lesson in this season of back-to-school that all writers should return to now and then.
Here’s a poem I read, flipping through one of my old anthologies on the shelf, that ran a spark up the wire, a spark that said, “You must share this. It’s good.”
Here’s part one of a new segment entitled, Other People’s Poetry that is Really Damn Good and You should Read It: So without Further Ado…
Your One Good Dress
should never be light. That kind of thing feels
like a hundred shiny-headed waifs backlit
and skeletal, approach. Dripping and in
unison, murmuring, “We are you.”
No. And the red dress (think about it,
redress) is all neckhole. The brown
is a big wet beard with, of course, a backslit.
You’re only as sick as your secrets.
There is an argument for the dull-chic,
the dirty olive and the Cinderelly. But those
who exhort it are only part of the conspiracy:
“Shimmer, shmimmer,” they’ll say. “Lush, shmush.”
Do not listen. It’s not part of the anti-obvious
movement and it’s sheer matricide. Ask your mum.
It would kill her if you were ewe gee el why.
And is it a crime to wonder, am I. In the dark a dare,
Am I now. You put on your Niña, your Pinta, your
Santa María. Make it simple to last your whole
life long. Make it black. Glassy or deep.
Your body is opium and you are its only true smoker.
This black dress is your one good dress.
Bury your children in it. Visit your pokey
hometown friends in it. Go missing for days.
Taking it off never matters. That just wears you down.
–Brenda Shaughnessy from The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry