Poem of the Week | November 11, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Window Shopping” by Stevie Edwards!

Stevie Edwards is author of two poetry collections, Good Grief (Write Bloody 2012) and Humanly (Small Doggies 2015), as well as a recent chapbook, Sadness Workshop (Button Poetry 2018). She holds a poetry M.F.A. from Cornell University and is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at University of North Texas. Her poems appear in Crazyhorse, Redivider, West Branch, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and Ninth Letter. Her article “A Room without Men: Toward Defining a Feministic Poetics” recently appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle. She is founder/editor-in-chief of Muzzle Magazine and a senior editor at YesYes Books. She is a lecturer in the English Department at Clemson University.


Window Shopping


Maybe I could get married
if it meant that neckline—if it meant a deep plunge
just a freckle shy of the navel
could be more goddess
than Jersey Shore, only then
could I say yes, drape
your lightest chiffon
down past my toes—yes, I will drag this ivory cloud
behind me like a glorious wheelbarrow
for everyone
even my mother, to see
I’ve woven flowers in my hair.

But I am as uncertain of the designer
as I am of white dresses. My mother wore one
down the aisle at twenty-one
and I never stop hearing about it:
the smallest size in the bridal shop’s sale rack.
She did the alterations herself, took in her own waist.
I am always the teenage girl being told
Mom’s dress is too slender for me.
There’s always a measuring
tape wrapped around my waist.
I am holding my breath:
this is the story of a tailor’s daughter.
Mom’s wedding dress
chucked in the goodwill box for someone
who can use it.

Once, my love stared at the pink numbered ribbon
as I wrapped it gently
around our pitbull’s neck
to check her collar size, and he exclaimed, Oh, that’s how
you measure bodies!
He’d never seen
a fabric measuring tape, only
the hardware store’s stiff yellow.
Perhaps he imagined holding a string to a yardstick
to learn a human’s true girth. Perhaps
he’d never considered it. The pup relaxed into my arms.
I kissed her forehead, said
Who’s a good girl!?

I’d like to consider not knowing seam allowances
the shame of growing
beyond a dress’s furthest edges.
I’d like to consider
not knowing size charts, how many
inches in a size eight waist, a size four, a nothing size.
There were the years I could model
neon mountains
of bedazzled prom dresses
while my mother examined
hems she’d sewn for other people’s daughters.
There were the years I was too full
to be useful.
Perhaps I could unknow them
like maps of cities I don’t live in anymore.
I could order a pain au chocolat at the coffee shop
stir cream and sugar in my dark roast
and smile the whole time.
Perhaps in Texas I’ve found
the right distance: six state lines
away from my youth, I could love a chiffon gown
in the window enough
to take a picture. I could gasp
like the first time I ran fingertips down
a fabric bolt and thought
how queenly.


Author’s Note

I wrote this poem upon the occasion of seeing a gorgeous chiffon wedding dress in the window of a bridal store on NE Alberta in Portland, OR. For most of my life, I’ve been fairly against getting married due to my fear of being confined within traditional gender roles. That fear is expressed in the poem through concerns with body image and the more literal expectation of fitting into small-sized clothing. Part of the impetus for the poem was me being struck by how much I wanted to try on the dress—perhaps because it was beautiful, perhaps because of some cultural inheritance from leafing through bridal magazines as a little girl (one of my friends’ mothers was a wedding planner when I was young), perhaps my love of romantic comedies, perhaps because I was in love. It’s hard to say why, but I really wanted to try on that dress. As a bit of an aside, I actually am getting married this fall (which was not in my plans when I wrote the poem) and am, indeed, going to wear a chiffon gown, though not that particular one. Also, my mother will be letting the dress out because Justin Alexander’s size scale seems to have little to do with all the other brands in my closet. I stuffed the dress in a box and mailed it cross-country because I don’t trust anybody else to do my alterations.