Short Ode to Screwball Women

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009 Rachel Wetzsteon
On sullen nights like these
when my spirit counts its woes like pearls on a string,
you bring me armfuls of spare pantsuits
and clear-eyed hints about the woman
who might kick up her heels in them, flooding rooms
with cunning, air, an almost gaudy vitality.

Gaudy but sober: when your wayward husband
courted the heiress, you stormed her gates
disguised as a floozy—and asked the butler
to serve you gingerale. It was life
you’d rather be drunk on, roaring life
that told you there is no time for spirits
of dark staircases, only lightning ruses
that not only leave no bruises but give
all parties their wish: rinsed vision and second chances.

Losing a boot heel and giddily claiming
I was born on the side of a hill is easy.
For every such moment there are ten
when my ideal snags midflight, a bag caught in branches.
But a girl can dream, can realize, high
on heroines, that she is mortal
and therefore fearless; that sanity
supplies the ground bass to the wildest singing;
that breezes made visible make the finest winds.

Rachel Wetzsteon, “Short Ode to Screwball Women” from Sakura Park. Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Wetzsteon. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books.

Source: Sakura Park (Persea Books, 2006)

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Poet Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

 Rachel  Wetzsteon


Born in Manhattan, poet and editor Rachel Wetzsteon received degrees from Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. She made her home in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, which is the setting for many of her formally assured poems. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire, Soren Kierkegaard, and Philip Larkin, Wetzsteon infused her urban and emotional landscapes with a dry wit. As critic Adam . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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