PUTTING ON EMILY DICKINSON’S CLOTHES
i take her discarded bone ribbed corset
& let it give me all the curves of a hand
written poem. pin my black hair up into
an arrogant shape. take a pair of hard
wood shoes & force each foot inside.
i blush & rouge, write sparse rhymed
lines, powder my face white, tie a black
tippet around my throat, fit three fingers
inside deep as they go, each one mine.
i turn up the church hymns & dance
without moving my hips. my empty room,
my audience. yes, the body of the poet, thin
pale eucharist, transubstantiation of flesh
into flesh. even the replica white frilled
garment hanging on a mannequin in her
home is only a replica. i step in & raise
its roof beams, it fits like a reverie worth
reveling inside or just a dead woman’s dress.
i take & take until there is only a white
woman folded in her sunday best in a white
cabinet locked in the dark ground. you can’t
wear your mother’s clothes without becoming
your mother. you can’t take on her voice
without also taking her hands & throat.
even boarded up in the body i am still
staring out of windows.
grandpa’s exploded right inside him
can of gray paint in the carburetor
flames up through the hood
he collapsed on some woman’s steps
a shock of flower’s wilting in his fist
i love this story so much i placed
the flowers in his hand myself
made them red
better love’s last dying declaration
than an apology that never got spoken
or a broken man begging a place to sleep
i try not to think of my own heart
its constant unflinching labor
its loft inside my throat
its four chambers
that will one day unbraid into my coffin
whenever a lover beats its procession out
on my chest his ear pressed against me
listening for a stampede
i’m sure it will stop while he listens.
perhaps this is why we always tie the heart to love.
it’s finding someone you want
to live inside you & knowing when they stop
About the author:
Sam Sax is an MFA candidate at The Michener Center for Writers. He’s the two time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion and recipient of The 2013 Acker Award for Poetry. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, The Journal, Devil’s Lake, The Berkeley Poetry Review, and other journals.