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Ken Poyner

June 27, 2012

The Lost Shirt


I come across my shirt, hanging out with a fancy red dress that is cut a bit too short for the season, that sways sassily well above the ground.  This sort of dress should have dark stockings and pin prick heels, should set its spaghetti straps off with low color, but there is nothing save the dress.

My shirt seems to be enjoying itself.  It is one of the few long sleeved ones I have, looking a bit formal, but in its every motion appearing casual.  It dips conspiratorially to the dress.  It sways back as though laughing at its own joke.  It twists at the waist and surely, if there were pants, it would bunch in wearied rolls of cloth at the back along the belt line.

I think the dress is leading my shirt on.  I think the shirt believes there is going to be more to this relationship than simply laundry on the loose.  The shirt thinks it is doing well, but I have seen dresses like this before:  always cut a bit seductively, but not so seductively you suspect there would be no sport in trying to caress it, no challenge to separate its emotional side from the pure physicality that you have been lusting after all along.   Dresses like this run the border, do not do well in large crowds.  They hint.  They live for the thesaurus.

And once a dress like this gets you alone, you are nothing but yesterday’s slightly soiled garment:  wrinkled and with the slight must of use, a bit of a stain just over the breast pocket.  The encounter starts out arm in arm, but whereas the shirt will not complain that the dress’s zipper tongue juts out too much, or that there is a fray on the hem, the dress will soon start testing the shirt’s buttons to see if they are affixed securely, will soon start examining the thread count, will pull out the rumpled label inside the collar to see just how much cotton there is in the mix.

I’ve warned my shirts before.  Don’t think you can get through this without me.  Don’t think you can go this route alone.  You will end up wadded in the hamper, waiting for one more wash that will leach the color out of you and get you one cycle closer to the over worn, over washed donation sack.  You need me.  You need my better judgment.  I can show you what a dress like this is for.  I can see through the threads and stitching and underwire to engage what is really there, to imagine what work can be done, what raw and pliable material is left for envy and design.   And I know what to do with it.  In wear, I am your best interest.  Come back to me.   Come back.




Ken Poyner has been publishing for forty years, first in the small presses and now greatly on the web.  He has had work in Menacing Hedge, Café Irreal, Poet Lore, West Branch, Corium and about sixty or so other places.  He lives with his world class power lifting wife and a coven of rescue cats in the lower right hand corner of Virginia.

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