McQueen Is Dead. Long Live McQueen.

There were seven colors of mourning,
one was lilac. That kind of blossom

always has its crowd, fanned out, surrounded
by crushing likeness, smell of itself.

Fabric has to breathe,
at least 2%, like skin.

A little milkfat, elastane
even in the gravest print.

Not knowing how to grieve can poison
like a directionless dart. And although fabric

has been known to swirl
and clasp, be clasped — 

without mother
there’s only art.

To hug the body: a swath, anathema,
magical, seventies lace and spacedust,

all too far gone

to truly love. But to twist it, to learn
to hate-want. To sway, tear, burrow,

be borrowed,
everybody’s animal.

To float like water seeking its own,
stampede like buffalo, seeking its hide.

Face painted on torso on horsehair
on chesty silk it’s a deathmask

for the stigmata slash
of the model’s body.

I don’t think I understand what studying is.
I listen, I read, I remember, I absorb.

I let myself be moved and changed.
Is that “studying?”

Never five-fingered,
you never use them all,

gloves will be like hooves,
split-footed, hand-stitched.

When concept perceived — a womanly gist, let’s say,
or a curve of mind — is more than itself (surpassing,

all maw) I make it part of me. I take it in,
drink a corrosive. I let it overtake me,

change everything it can,
lip to tip to rim.

My eyes just drink the fabric that covers
each surface of this world.

Suck up the plastic
through a polished straw.

Everything’s inspiration: trees reflected
in windows on buildings, distorted buses

endless frames, all too glass,
so much lens, textures so tall,

and once you start to see things this way,
vision’s a performance, shocking

and true after all these centuries,
a Shakespearean volta, like nectar

is poison to the occasional
queen bee.

Everything actually is blurred,
not just how you see.

Glasses and shoes are solutions
to problems that are real problems,

that of blurred world,
that of touching the ground.

A glass corset for the heart
to see out its chest. For without

glasses, the eye better sees
the wind, by feeling it and closing

against its grains,
its grasses.

For without shoes, my feet become
shoes. When I am really feeling,

I get very tired, I fall asleep
for the seventeenth time

on the unfinished skirt
of glass eyes and lemon

zest hemmed first,
grown last.

I experience the world as infinite
invertedness: no wholes broken,

just potential fragments straining, skull-like,
at the seams. Anything could give.

But no, just takes
and takes and takes.

I’ve been trying to write the words,
“I cried. Cried really

and wetly, and for good.” Old-fashioned
writing with intense excitement:

the spell of quill
and ink spill, quelled.

What is beautiful, what is terrifying,
what is absurd in me?

Every possibility that colors
are believable, various,

not that mirage
I thought I’d seen

and can be held apart as unreal,
too exterior, distinct from each

other wildly as sparks to seaweed
or flower to meteor.

It collapsed, can’t draw it
can’t cut it out of itself.

There is no color but what’s already
inside the eye, no power

or invention or new way to wake up
in the morning

outside the seeing

our own orbs. Yet I can’t see myself.
I can never see you again.

I can only see from inside my skull
and when I look down

I close everything
not just my eyes.

I wrap my own tender nether flesh
in calfskin leather so buttery,

melted back

like so: a newborn softened
in its own mother’s milk.

I awoke in a panic (no ma no ma) to the smallest day yet.
I dreamed I already

dreamed all the dreams I’d get.
This morning I dressed

in my last dress’s
last dress,

fit only for a genteel gothic
murder, covered up well — airtight,

would only fit the stabbed one,
after bloodlet.

Then, like a glove.

Who wears it and where?
I will, from the bed to the chair.

Headrest, clotheshorse.
Designer and model: mutually orbiting

the best metaphor for bodiless idea.
Amorphous, amorous, amoral,

immortal. Red is dead,
said blue, to you too?

Hindquarter-gauze with silver face clamp
and sickened ears pulled,


Broken backpiece. Shadow sensible
by other than sight. To smell a shadow.

To strike it. To trace it later,
to measure a body by its line.

Light’s so quiet.

You’d think its cuttings, its edge-hole,
those mousy children, would squeak

at least a bit. They run like a stocking
down the leg of the mind.

Why not quieter then?

There is no body without life.
There is no mind without body.

There is no without.

More Poems by Brenda Shaughnessy