Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Couture

1.

Peony silks,
	in wax-light:
		that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose
	candled into-
		what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?
	About gowns,
		the Old Masters,


were they ever wrong?
	This penitent Magdalen's
		wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous
	she seems to wear
		all she's renounced;

this boy angel
	isn't touching the ground,
		but his billow

of yardage refers
	not to heaven
		but to pleasure's

textures, the tactile
	sheers and voiles
		and tulles

which weren't made
	to adorn the soul.
		Eternity's plainly nude;

the naked here and now
	longs for a little
		dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer
	the invisible, every saint
		in the gallery

flaunts an improbable
	tumble of drapery,
		a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,
	satin's violin-sheen)
		raveled around the body's

plain prose; exquisite
	(dis?)guises; poetry,
		music, clothes.

2.

Nothing needs to be this lavish.
	Even the words I'd choose
		for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,
	tortoise, mottled, splotched
		-jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,
	all cloisonné and enamel,
		a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,
	brass buttons
		tumbling to the floor.

Who's it for?
	Who's the audience
		for this bravura?

Maybe the world's
	just trompe l'oeil,
		appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;
	who could see through this
		to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume's
	the whole show,
		all of revelation

we'll be offered.
	So? Show me what's not
		a world of appearances.

Autumn's a grand old drag
	in torched and tumbled chiffon
		striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow
	fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
		thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,
	those October damasks,
		the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,
	uncountable curtain calls
		in these footlights'

dusky, flattering rose.
	The world's made fabulous
		by fabulous clothes.

Credit


From Atlantis by Mark Doty, published by Harper Perennial. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of the author.

Author


Mark Doty

Mark Doty is the author of several collections of poetry, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which received the 2008 National Book Award. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Date Published: 1995-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/couture