RAIMENT FOR MY DAUGHTER
by Barbara Kussow
For Natalie, 1996
My funeral dress was airy black
light and loose and long
falling almost to my ankles
I was spilled ink
flowing on an impermeable surface.
Three days earlier
I wore hospital scrubs
pajamas offered by a kind nurse
my stomach tense as a surgical clamp
in the bed next to yours.
From your wardrobe
I took two items
an oversized flannel shirt
to comfort me in winter’s pall
and a dressy blouse
magenta geometry with scrolls,
patches of pink, teal, lavender and gold
to lend me your grace and smile
One left me numb,
the other streamed light
from stained-glass windows
to become a shroud
Last Christmas you modeled
long baggy sweaters
and lean leggings
“I’ve always wanted to be thin,” you said.
Watching you twirl,
I tried to fit the shape, the shadows,
the contours of you into my synapses
An unskilled seamstress
with no pattern
taking fearful measurements.
This poem was previously published in Red Owl Magazine (now defunct). It also won an Honorable Mention in a ByLine (also defunct) contest several years ago.
by Barbara Kussow
Scrunched down in a chair not meant for sleeping
I wake with a prolonged sweetness like savoring
the last pages of a novel I don’t want to end.
A sometime insomniac in my own bed I have become
a public napper in the afternoon hush of the public library
fiction section, unfolding my curved spine among readers
too preoccupied or polite to notice near the “B” section
where the brothers have been shifted again, twins
one better known than the other I knew in another library
long ago. We were discontented clerks insufferable I’m sure
handing other people’s novels across the counter, even then
his ambition an intriguing book jacket he was certain to fill.
He had the slouch, the beret worn atilt over thin red hair,
pale blue go-to-hell eyes behind round wire-rimmed glasses
a brash manner with feigned contrition if anyone took offense.
I keep meaning to take one of his books to the circulation
desk and slide it across the counter but I’ve gotten no further
than the photograph showing his fuller visage and somewhat
satisfied smile, his plots less compelling than his persona—
a developing character in the novel I’m still planning to write.
A slightly different version of "Public Dreaming" was published in BYLINE (now defunct) several years ago.