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


paper dolls (for darnell arnoult)

perhaps
it is the joy of tomato sandwiches
the smell of jergens and jean nate
at thirteen
or our love still for grandmothers aunts
who enter rooms
largely sideways
hips broad enough
to use as sideboards
maybe it is the value
we place on duke’s mayonnaise
the sandwich spread for queens…

whatever wherever and for ever more
we are little girls
revisiting space
rebuilding houses
renaming mothers…

perhaps it is the secret
knotted inside the pleats of skirt hems
sewn along scarf edges
fringed secret whispers
that whisper a familiar smell…

whatever we become
sisters
stealing a moment
to cast word spells
undress our mothers
repaint their lips with anything red anything Italian
drench their heads with ancient clairol wisdom
anoint their hands with herstorical bronze
queen of the nile henna…

we reembrace
lace
full petticoats
white linen skirts
sailor dresses
patent leather

for the pretty pirates
swans
ballerinas
we will become…

perfumed necks
wrists adorned
in vintage memory
cut carefully
along the edges
of this madness
this magic…

we lie down
and wait for the moon
to trace us.

Credit


From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the author.

Author


Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). In 2019, Green was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and serves as the poet laureate of North Carolina.

Date Published: 2019-08-20

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/paper-dolls-darnell-arnoult