Everything That Rises Must Converge

Felt like that old woman in the story by Flannery O'Connor today as I browsed Circle Thrift and found myself followed by two little African-American kids--one was about three (the boy) and the other was maybe 6 (the girl). They were with their grandma and something I said to them made them think they could talk to me and then the little girl came asked me if I could help her look at some baby clothes. She said she had two dolls and wanted to buy booties for one of them. I took the box off the shelf and we went through it and she said, But I can't buy this. I only have two dollars. I said, Well, go ask your grandma if it's okay if I give you a dollar. She went over and asked the silent older woman who was browsing through the kitchen stuff and seemed utterly unconnected to the children. I didn't want to be insulting, I didn't want to be like, Oh, you poor li'l Negro chillren, here you go, here's a penny! At the same time, what's a dollar to me? So, the little girl went to ask her grandma if it was okay if this strange white person gave her a dollar and then she returned to me and said, She won't answer me. I surreptitiously slipped her and her brother 4 quarters each and tried to say something life changing to them like, When you're all grown up and you meet someone who needs something, be sure to give them a fucking quarter. Then I waited for the grandma to become indignant and hit me with her pocketbook. She did not. I don't know if the little girl got the booties she wanted or if the little boy got the puzzle book, but it was strange. If they had been white, would I have thought to offer them money or been so accepting of their asking? Maybe not.

In any case, I bought a very fuscia Christmas tree and also a silver wreath with pink. blue and yellow lights that I like very much.

I am listening to Prairie Home Companion (please see previous post where listening to Garrison Keillor gives me an unpleasant tickle up my spine due to his nasalness). Billy Collins is on the program, reading his poetry. I met Billy Collins when I was a student at Penn State. He's an older man with that halo type monk hair cut. He is an excellent poet and a good reader and I was enamored because even though I had never heard of him before, I knew he was famous and a good writer. He drank too much whiskey and propositioned me, only after having been rejected by this other girl, Molly, can't remember her last name, just that she was very sweet and boring and had a gigantic head. I think I overheard him saying that she had the face of an angel. I am not sure if he told me the same, but he pretended to have noticed me in the audience while he was reading. He wrote his hotel number in red colored pencil on a napkin, inviting me to visit him later so that perhaps I could inspire a new line of Victoria's Secret poetry. I was flattered but did not for a second consider taking him up on it, because he had a lot of nostril hair and was older and was drunk.

"Victoria's Secret," by B Collins

The one in the upper-left-hand corner
is giving me a look that says
I know you are here
and I have nothing better to do
for the remainder of human time
than return your persistent but engaging stare.
She is wearing a deeply scalloped
flame-stitch halter top
with padded push-up styling
and easy side-zip tap pants.

The one on the facing page, however,
who looks at me over her bare shoulder,
cannot hide the shadow of annoyance in her brow.
You have interrupted me,
she seems to be saying,
with your coughing and your loud music.
Now please leave me alone;
let me finish whatever it was I was doing
in my organza-trimmed
whisper weight camisole with
keyhole closure and point d'esprit mesh back.

I wet my thumb and flip the page.
Here, the one who happens to be reclining
in a satin and lace merry widow
with an inset lace-up front,
decorated underwire cups and bodice
with lace ruffles along the bottomand hook-and-eye closure in the back,
is wearing a slightly contorted expression,
her head thrust back, mouth partially open,
a confusing mixture of pain and surprise
as if she had stepped on a tack
just as I was breaking down
her bedroom door with my shoulder.

Nor does the one directly beneath her
looking particularly happy to see me.
She is arching one eyebrow slightly
as if to say, so what if I am wearing nothing
but this stretch panne velvet bodysuit
with a low sweetheart neckline
featuring molded cups and adjustable straps.
Do you have a problem with that?!

The one on the far right is easier to take,
her eyes half-closed
as if she were listening to a medley
of lullabies playing faintly on a music box.
Soon she will drop off to sleep,
her head nestled in the soft crook of her arm,
and later she will wake up in her
Spandex slip dress with the high side slit,
deep scoop neckline, elastic shirring,
and concealed back zip and vent.

But opposite her,
stretched out catlike on a couch
in the warm glow of a paneled library,
is one who wears a distinctly challenging expression,
her face tipped up, exposing
her long neck, her perfectly flared nostrils.
Go ahead, her expression tells me,
take off my satin charmeuse gown
with a sheer, jacquard bodice
decorated with a touch of shimmering Lurex.
Go ahead, fling it into the fireplace.
What do I care, her eyes say, we're all going to hell anyway.

I have other mail to open,
but I cannot help noticing her neighbor
whose eyes are downcast,
her head ever so demurely bowed to the side
as if she were the model who sat for Coreggio
when he painted "The Madonna of St. Jerome,"
only, it became so ungodly hot in Parma
that afternoon, she had to remove
the traditional blue robe
and pose there in his studio
in a beautifully shaped satin teddy
with an embossed V-front,
princess seaming to mold the bodice,
and puckered knit detail.

And occupying the whole facing page
is one who displays that expression
we have come to associate with photographic beauty.
Yes, she is pouting about something,
all lower lip and cheekbone.
Perhaps her ice cream has tumbled
out of its cone onto the parquet floor.
Perhaps she has been waiting all day
for a new sofa to be delivered,
waiting all day in stretch lace hipster
with lattice edging, satin frog closures,
velvet scrollwork, cuffed ankles,
flare silhouette, and knotted shoulder straps
available in black, champagne, almond,
cinnabar, plum, bronze, mocha, peach, ivory, caramel, blush, butter, rose, and periwinkle.
It is, of course, impossible to say,
impossible to know what she is thinking,
why her mouth is the shape of petulance.

But this is already too much.
Who has the time to linger on these delicate
lures, these once unmentionable things?
Life is rushing by like a mad, swollen river.
One minute roses are opening in the garden
and the next, snow is flying past my window.
Plus the phone is ringing.
The dog is whining at the door,
Rain is beating on the roof.
And as always there is a list of things I have to do
before the night descends, black and silky,
and the dark hours begin to hurtle by,
before the little doors of the body swing shut
and I ride to sleep, my closed eyes
still burning from all the glossy lights of day.

I most certainly have gotten some of the line breaks wrong, but you get the idea. I wish I could find one of my poems, but they are lost somewhere, perhaps under the sofa with a sock I have also forgotten.


clockwork said…
How long ago was that when you saw Billy Collins at Penn State?
Aimee said…
It's was a long time ago, actually...Like maybe in 2001? Why?
clockwork said…
Because I met him in 2002 and he wasn't like that then.