Beautiful Girl, Beautiful Dress 1963



The girl pulled back the tissue paper to reveal
a dress Double-Bubble-pink and as frothy

as the high-teased hair of a Diana Ross and the Supremes bouffant—
a dress which could whirl across the dance floor

of its own volition, a ghostly Ginger without
her Astaire, couture cupcake of satin-susurration,

And always behind her a backdrop

of tinfoil stars, midnight in small-town-

Miss Dourfaced-Chem-Teacher obsessively guarding
the lime sherbet punch, but really making time

with Mr. Recently-Divorced-Basketball-Coach,
a man so nervous he’d gnawed the skin around his fingernails

raw and bleeding, a pain he could understand, unlike
this lord-have-mercy-massive-heart-attack panic

pressing on his chest every night since he’d rented
his new apartment and learned emptiness has a sound

like the click of the phone when his wife hung up
and he listened to the dial tone, knowing

their marriage was over, kaput, and all he’d been
able to glean between the sobs and the ranting

was his blatant inability to put his dirty clothes
in the hamper.

But the girl didn’t register Miss Chem
or Mr. Coach’s awkward small talk—she blazed,

a lumined-pink-unopened-valentine of perfection,
dwarfing her puny escort who hung onto her arm

like a human purse—gleefully complicit
in his own emasculation—neither could perceive

how quickly their roles would reverse.
How her rose-colored glow would accelerate time,

a wind-rush of car-top-down-rock-n-roll, cornsilk-blonde
whipped into a tangled-frenzy, a fast forward film reel

of Saturday nights, backseat-make-out kisses, until she’d wake
one Monday morning to his whiny

“Punkin, you forgot to iron my shirt.”
And as soon as he’d left for work, she’d kick

the dumbfounded ironing board down the basement stairs
to land up next to the cardboard boxes

of her adolescent scrapbooks, her crumbling
yellowed-corsage memorabilia, the bric-a-brac

she once thought was love.

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