Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE STRAPLESS, by KAREN SWENSON



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THE STRAPLESS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A scrawny yank of a kid
Last Line: Paint in the women never filled.
Subject(s): Beauty; Fashion; Women


A scrawny yank of a kid
trying to be a Vogue woman,
I had a vision of myself
developed from the negatives
of fashion magazines and movies -

careful angles of elegance
that never changed their glossy pose
through all their paper-doll dresses,
and the great roses of women
who bloomed like timed Disney flowers
on the tabula rasa of the screen.

They were outlines to be grown into
beyond my skeletal youth,
possibilities of women,
a collage of criteria.
And it was because of them
that I coveted my first strapless -
a flurry of tulle
with fat rouge spots of color
hidden in its drifts.

There was a family conference at which neither
Monroe nor the cover of Vogue appeared as witnesses.
My father didn't think I could hold it up.
My mother was shocked by an imagined horizon
of her daughter's bare shoulders
and I was forbidden my gown.

In every woman's life
there is a dress that was a dream,
and the dream outlawed gets lost
in the back issues of the years.
But it's there, a resonance in the mirror.
That's why your face is never enough,
only a bare sketch,
and you, with mascara and lipstick,
paint in the women never filled.





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