I am trying to write a poem, not any poem, a poem about a dress. The poem isn't really about the dress; it's about two distinct events, one that happened in February 2009, one that will happen this Saturday.
Saturday the high school band boosters host a jazz ball featuring music by the high school jazz band and the alumni jazz band. I didn't attend last year (was in a mood), but this year I crave a party. This kind of party requires a dress. I don't have many dresses, and since my body changes shape with my age, some of the dresses I do have don't fit quite right. But there is one.
Before my girl left for her dad's, I pulled this dress out of the closet and said, "What do you think? Would this do for the ball?"
"Yes! It's pretty."
"The only thing is that I wore it to Karen's funeral and haven't worn it since."
"Oh," she said.
The "oh" echoed in my head, my own oh oh oh.
This morning, I open my closet, my terrible closet, which was designed for a man who stands 6'5" (I'm not kidding. Bought the house from a tall couple). The dress hangs on the highest bar, so I stand on tiptoe to turn its front toward me, study it, finger the fabric, scoop up the skirt, bury my face in the blue and white print, expect to smell perfume of Tide laundry detergent when I inhale deeply. I exhale on a sob, drop dress skirt, spin around and mutter, "Yep, still smells like their living room. Puts me right back in the middle of all that grief."
I bought the dress specifically for my friend Karen's funeral. At some point when she started to feel that she was dying before she stopped communicating, Karen told her daughters that she did not want anyone wearing black at her funeral mass; she wanted the women dressed in pink.
I couldn't find a pink dress anywhere in my little frozen city. Still, I knew my friend would be happy simply to see me in a dress instead of jeans, to see me slide a brush tipped with blush over cheekbones, slide an eyeliner pencil over lid.
When my mother died, I wore a favorite dress that I'd worn a dozen times before to her December funeral. Kept that dress in my closet for many years, even packed it and brought it from Texas to Ohio when we moved, though I suspected I'd never wear it again, couldn't stand to wear it again, finally gave it away.
I don't know what it is about clothes and events for me. I cannot wear this dress to a ball. It's Karen's dress. Stupid maybe, but when I touch the skirt, I fall back into my friend's house crowded with people mourning. Of course there was much laughter in that house, too, because my friend loved to laugh, and the stories we shared were funny, but... .
So. The unmaking of a poem. I won't wear the dress Saturday night, and I don't think I'm ready to write the poem yet. Apparently I haven't waited long enough to find the distance to write a poem that isn't too maudlin or dumb, maudlin and dumb like this post (pardon my self-deprecation. Bad habit I seem unable to break). Maybe I'll be able to write it in March. That's just next week. I can wait until next week.
Now I need to go find myself a dress, something comfortable and pretty that I can slide over my matronly hips without feeling like I'm turning into a hippopotamus, though I could think of myself as the hippo doing ballet in Fantasia, couldn't I? She's a sexy thing. Maybe I could write a poem about being a sexy hippopotamus.