Rose-And-Blue Striped Dress

Beyond the crossroads of airborne carousels
past the supermarket of golden tinsel
I drove with a pair of Dockers strung to the radio antennae
                        like a flagpole that can’t remember its allegiance,
waiting for dawn to defrost the flocks
of Canadian geese along the freeway,

a cut-and-paste travelogue, with no itinerary
                        except the grocery list taped to the dashboard.
Once in a while escaping customary responses
                        can fracture the color-coded atlas
you’ve drawn each day with your medulla oblongata,
and it’s not that you’re any less misdirected.
It’s times like these my abstract lecture hall
                        transmutes into a casino hotel room

with posters of utopic islands stapled to stucco walls
                        through which doorjambs lead to Escher-like stairwells,
I admitted during my sermon on desire,
                        but never to myself—when I might listen—
that ever since the epoch of mind-body recidivism
                        the mouth’s become a subterranean alcove
and less an ingress to the underworld, complete

with stalactites and crones. Enough philosophy, I thought,
                        now for crepuscular skyways with a few lights on
like crossword puzzles with no clues
                        I couldn’t remember what the junket was all about
except how the hem should be and what your garter
                        might surrender to, while overhead

fluorescent light bulbs blurred against the circadian
rhythm of spring incapable of enunciating
or even admitting to myself what I wanted, whirling
                        farther from what I couldn’t describe
beyond an objectless gerund phrase,
one hand groping after, the other lounging behind

or rather one eye stumbling after and the other removed from,
                        hidden missives like undeveloped film in the bandstand
or else folded within random textbooks
concerned with the transience of gravitational constants,
the sinusoidal relation among observer,
                        optical lens, referent and the dispersion

of light, or else the historical significance of Napoleon’s bicorn,
                        predispositions and so forth, treating myself as
rather than opposed to camera shutters.
                        The tape measure of the middle-aged tailor
unfolded along the collarbone and shoulder blades
                        of the triptych mirror I couldn’t recognize.
I must’ve predicted that syllogism

unconsciously you waiting behind glazed fresh doors
                        before pacing along bougainvillea
past cemetery columbaria and rutted sidewalks
                        where you stood at last through
spring behind your pursed lips and forward
                        my white rose around your waist I never

preserved because we never lasted
long enough for a single wilting. I couldn’t help
unshadowing you as I fashioned another
                        graven image. Not that you needed my adorations,
whilst repairing amongst acquaintances
perhaps in the manner of a gilded swan.

Scott Corbet Riley is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz, studying US poetry. He has published essays and poems in Berkeley Poetry Review, Rattle, and Landscapes. He holds an MFA from St. Mary’s College and lives in Redwood City, CA.

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