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Impression of a Rib

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“Café-Concert at Les Ambassadeurs,” 1876–77 by Edgar Degas

i have a red dress and no eyes.
i have a dress that is blood
red and i have eyes that don’t blink

when the balcony sucks in. my dress is a beet
swollen with thought, and hangs like a body
on my body. i have eyes that don’t blink

at being seen. i was halfway finished
before i saw i’d begun. my dress drips
down the center. my eyes are needle holes

and my dress is an over-red thread. i hang
my words in the air by their feet, limp
and damp, and my dress is my only laugh

that is actually red. my eyes
are the backs of moons and afterwards men
jest us like children, and smoke,

and women who have been my dress circle
their stomachs with their hands.
i’m an actress. this is not my mother

tongue. i have a dress that is
yellow. my lines are written by a parisian
man. we met in london. i came dancing

out like god upon a crimson wave. my dress hung
like a question or a suddenness. he wrote me
coming out this way, he says, to make me

like a lioness. the constellations are full
of dead women, he says. he says
my dress is the coat of a great lion.

i turn like the blood inside
a rose. the crowd is a great gasp. i can feel myself
become a pear. it’s as if you haven’t taken

pills, he says. i still have that dress.
it’s not too blonde or red. you can grasp
it with your eyes, he said, the way you wear it.

Source: Poetry (March 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Impression of a Rib

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