From Destruction Bay

    The Unveiling of the Paris Collections, 1926

Two days before I left home,
Father and I watched our penned
pheasants scratch in the dirt.
We named you Grace, he said, hoping
you would be beautiful.  But you’re
as plain as those pheasant hens.
He laughed, lit his pipe.
When I turned away, he caught
my arm.  You’ll never marry.
His hair was the color
of cognac, held above a flame.

No, I’m not beautiful,
but I am elegant in black
crepe de chine and Mother’s
heirloom pearls.  And watching
les mannequins, I know
they are only shopgirls
transformed.  Look at her,
rare and fine as a jeweled ibis.
And that one, in the gown
of gas-blue beads.  Her thin
figure is unwavering as a column
of clear water.  They are all lovely
by design–bobbed hair
and yards of faux pearls.
Off the runway, they shed
their glamour with the clothes.
Only le couturier will be
remembered.  Beauty, Father,
is better created than possessed.


About the poem:   This is part of a series of poems in this book that are set in France in the 20’s.  I based them, very loosely, on my grandmother’s life.  She went to Paris in the 20’s, right after college, and she wanted to be a fashion designer.  She was quite a talented seamstress and artist.  Her father, however, thought fashion was an improper career for a young woman, and he withdrew his financial support, so she had to come home.

    Detail, Final Scene

Midwinter and the stars
burn in their places,
those cold bodies
we wish upon.  Twists
of ice in your beard,
frost flowering from
your mouth as you speak,
the words made tangible
in air.  Notice
the black spruce–
uneasy fingers reaching
for an indifferent sky.
And the shadows,
lengthening between us.

About the poem:   I wrote several brief, imagistic poems in which I tried to capture the feel of Alaska in the winter, and paired that with an emotion.  This is one of them.