Skirt, My Pretty Name

Original Text: 
VillainElle (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1994) : 42-43.
and the space between my name and myself grows larger until...
       .- Rosalie Sings Alone
2  feel sweet and contented. the city is dangerous,
3prurient and I am a woman of mystery. I ask
4  the waitress for some napkins and whisper,
5my husband's brains are in my hands. I ask her
6  to regard the blood and tissue, the horror of my
7dress. I am wearing tinted sunglasses, a chiffon
8  scarf, patterned with lemons and cherries,
9my wig, my hair is concealed, it really is
10  awful, a cerise coloured rat's nest and it itches,
11badly. when I leave, I move smoothly through the streets,
12  clutching my shopping bags; I fit my key into
13the lock and gaze at my calling card, that reads:
14  skirt, my pretty name
17breakdown. you don't bring me flowers, I remember
18  coming home once and finding a sprig of lilacs
19on my doorstep and I held them and I thought of him
20  l love. he was a merchant marine, and I was his
21noviciate. I held conch shells to his ears
22  while he slept, so he could hear the sea,
23the sheets billowed like sails when he kissed
24  me. he would powder my nose, he traced his
26  he was rarely cruel to me. when he left, I
27wore a mourning veil and sewed starfish over my
28  eyes. I cried like a siren, I slashed my
29wrists with a broken bottle. it lay on the carpet
30  shattered, with a message, a silver ship in
31its base
32weeks in the hospital, without perfume, or candy,
33  and I still have no friends. yesterday, a man
34came over to me and screamed about the accident, the
35  blood! I shrank, smaller, into my sweater
36and imagined I was somewhere else. the women in the
37  restaurant smile when I take their pictures
38with a pink instamatic and I offer them spoonfuls of
39  chocolate, my number. I am staring at the
40telephone now, willing it to ring, cradling it in my
41  arms and my stomach is turning. I beat myself
42with my fists, I stick my ribs with pins and
43  needles, my loneliness is relentless. I see
44its constancy in the spreading bruises, the green
45  and yellow echoes. I am the quietest object here,
46I could rest here always, never moving
47only breathing, the faintest shadow. slowly
48  turning the pages of my library book:
49Fashion in the 1970's and naming the dances
50  under my breath. I would step from
52  tired and solemn. I am the light that
53jewels their white pantsuits; the mirrored
54  disco ball made of shattered stars.
55the dancers sway beneath me in an orbit and
56  sometimes stare, with a comb or a
57tissue. they see that they are broken,
58  mortal, and they look away.

Notes

1] David Demchuk's Rosalie Sings Alone: a play, rev.edn. (Toronto: Playrights Union of Canada, 1987), a monologue about a young woman imagining an interview. Back to Line
15] Lee Press-On and the Nails, a San Francisco Swing Band; named after Lee Pharmaceuticals, the beauty aid company. Back to Line
16] Annunzio Paulo Mantovani (1912-80), whose exquisitely orchestrated band music dominated the 1950s. Back to Line
25] flaw: crack, breach, opening (OED 'flaw' 1, 4). Back to Line
51] hustle: disco dancing to swing steps. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Lynn Crosbie or the Coach House Press permissions department.</b>