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.

Everybody in.




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.

Cuticles, calluses,

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,

dark thing.


6. Coda:

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.)