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Dressing Up

The scent is disconcerting. More like sex than honey, drifts  
of amber, heat, decay, I dab against my pulse  
in wrist, in throat and back of knee. A dress leans mutely  

in the doorway, self-enclosed, unknown.  Soon I’ll wrap  
its folds around me, not so much as if it were a lover,  
but a home. My neighbors live in houses, cities, landscapes.

This is where I live, in artful preparations, cream on skin
and seam on stocking. Now an edge of coffee pleat to press,
the scarf pinned to my hair, a girl from Proust.  

Tomorrow in the strict fawn suit I’ll be beyond age, elegant,  
severe. These nights I wake again and yet again, here, but really
not. A bobbing cork along the tide of consciousness.  

A voice without agenda and the message clear:
It’s time. Each seven years or so a sea change comes.  
Another move, another city where the crickets chafe or street birds

mutter, where the ice hangs strong as leaves on winter trees
or skies pale slowly in autumnal reticence. Friends
are fewer, ever new. Reasons, always different, rooted in the single

fact of rootlessness. Nowhere isn’t where I thought I’d be  
this age I am. The light outside my window—molten,
poured through clouds into the heart of things

so that they shine back with a private glow—would this bring peace  
to me if I had years of it behind me, years to come?  Its evanescence  
aches. I know the temporary far too well, a child I’ve raised  

who just can’t grow. Skin isn’t much a home, too fragile  
with its marks of change. But pull the tissued bulk of Grandma’s
shawl from closet shelf, eternal black for nights that grant no fear,  

the threads of silver speaking moon and age and opulence,
the weight of it, the fit of it, the dress that shows too much
so shawl can cover little, shoes that pick the blue inside its depths.

I’ll comb my hair into a polished net of glass and fray the ends like
sugar, swing pewter bells from ear and band thick cuffs on wrists
like Roman soldiers, or like women owned by no one. I’ll live,  

as I have done so far, inside the mirror’s welcome, in your eyes,  
whoever you are, in the story that I tell as I walk out in finery,  
perfection. Where I’ll lay my head down is tomorrow’s choice.