Don’t call us, we’ll call you

October 6, 2010

Poetry: Dresses, 1996

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 10:00 pm

There is such a long, long story behind this poem, which I might tell if this computer weren’t so unbelievably slow, but since it is, I will just say that I wrote it in high school for an assignment in which we had to mimic a famous poem.  I chose Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips.”


The dresses are too restrictive, it is Homecoming here.
Look how happy everyone is, how joyful, how excited.
I am learning confinement, slipping quietly into dresses
As the sequins choke these white arms, this neck, these legs.
I have nothing to do with penitentiaries.
I have given my scrubs to the committee
And my identity to the attendants and my body to dressmakers.

They bring me probation in their bright dresses,
Adding panels and snaps to suck out this last breath
And a golden chain to mock this last diversion.
Now I have lost myself; I am sick of clothes—
My green A-frame like a flowing, transient prison,
My once favorite brown and satin winking from the hanger;
Its brightness hooks my skin, little shining straightjacket.

The dresses are too tight in the first place.
Even through the store glass windows I could hear them laugh
Loudly laughing at their faceless victim.
Their laughter talks to my tears, it corresponds.
They seem to praise, though they shame me,
Strangling me with their low necklines
A million motley chains round my tabernacle.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The people turn to me, the invitation behind me
Where the faces widen with shock and thin with acceptance,
And I see myself, cold, contracted, a newly feathered cap-wearer
Between the eye of the invitation and the eyes of the dresses,
And I have no name but yours.
The vibrant dresses steal my oxygen.

The dresses should be lost in flames.
They are stretching like the elastic of a long rubber band
And I am aware of my size: it is too small for the six
It is too large for the four out of sheer spite.
There are no matching shoes anyway.
The gift I accept is pulsing with love
And comes from a place as far away as sanity.



  1. Now if I had to guess which one of my blogger friends wrote this poem, I could guess that it was you—we’ve had too many discussions about your relationship with clothing for me to be surprised here! I can’t wait to hear the story behind it some time. I’d never read Tulips before (can’t say I’ve read much of Sylvia at all)—you definitely got the tone! It’s ok to read this and get a little sad because I’m about to go meet with the 8-11 year old Faith in God girls who totally rev me up!

    Comment by Vickie Blanchard — October 6, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

  2. um, love!

    Comment by Nikki — October 6, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

  3. Wow. You are very talented! I hope you continue to share your work!

    Comment by Kristin — October 7, 2010 @ 1:45 am

  4. A Threat Fulfilled

    There is a fancy word for the implement of torture
    that wraps around my neck like disembodied, malevolent fingers
    Tightening like a chinese fingertrap, the serpent
    wraps itself once, twice beneath my chin, and
    trails its tail impudently down to my navel.
    I don’t need all my coils, it says,
    to strangle the noncomformist out of you, but just a few.
    We all in the room feel the weight of our succubi,
    we twitch and jerk, seek a comfortable position.
    As though there is comfort in hell. Fingers in our collars,
    to open a gap, just a little one.
    But it doesn’t help. We feel the weight, true, yet somehow
    we’ve learned to go on with our lives,
    suffering the numbing bites, the silent sibilance,
    the hanging nuisance.
    How else can we climb the ladder? How else to fit in?
    And how else to get my wife to post pictures of Addison again?

    Comment by neal — October 7, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

    • Wow, that’s some poem, Neal. I forget you have a little bit of angst in you.

      Comment by llcall — October 7, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

      • down with clothes!

        Comment by neal — October 8, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  5. The memory of Hal Holbrook’s voice, whispery thin, but gruff, and graveling outward in the VBC, where we, as ushers heard in his farewell performance of Mark Twain proclaim, “The clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
    How Lindsay and Neal must suffer to soldier on in this dressed-up culture of ours! Your deep tit-for-tat, your poetic rat-a-tat-tats, and repartees of ping-for-pong are needed by me, and the world, you see.
    And so, the clothes battle must wage on.
    Be brave to spare young Sage as pawn.
    What if, rather than scrubs and pajamas, Sage delights in sophisticated outfits, exquisite ensembles, and
    gossamer gowns? The thought intrigues.
    Perhaps the three of you will yet make a dent on “society.”

    Comment by Lorie — October 9, 2010 @ 7:59 am

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