The dress -------------------------------------------
the first time I touched her
she wore white cotton chintz
patterned with pink fleur di lis
silk-lined with a tiny triangle
cut out at the neckline
my fingers gently pressed
the fragile v of her larynx
my thumb traced her clavicle
where bone approaches bone
full skirt gathered waist
the hem floated above a skinned knee
brushed the transparent hairs
of her thin thighs and the sharp blades
of a zipper sliced along her spine
she cried softly into the hand
I held over her mouth
how I loved that dress
This is gorgeous and haunting. You did a wonderful job of creating a very well-shaped image within only a few lines. I love the painstaking description of the dress, the way the speaker is touching the object of the poem, the macabre imagery nestled so tenderly beside this gorgeous dress. I'm into that sort of thing, and I think you executed it beautifully.
There are no "buts" to the above statements--this poem is on my faves list entirely as-is. But good poetry makes me think, and I'm of the opinion that writing (and especially writing poetry) is a bit like solving a puzzle, so here are some of the thoughts I had while reading. Whether you agree with them or not doesn't change my opinion of the poem itself :)
(Sorry in advance) :
- Fleurs de lis, not fleur di lis (plural, implied by stating the fabric was "patterned")
- Related to the above, chintz in clothing is very period-specific (1700s-ish--especially lined with silk), and if so, the zipper is kind of anachronistic here. I did get a very old timey vibe from this poem (which I love--I think it plays well with the theme), but if you didn't mean it to be old timey, maybe substitute "chintz" for "calico," or cut it all together and just say cotton? Sorry to be so pedantic about it.
- I would suggest some line breaks or punctuation, because I'm not sure that the absence of them does much in the way of improving the poem. I'm all for punctuation-free pieces, when they read breathlessly and ramblingly, but in my opinion, a few of the lines here just felt like run-ons, and not in a good way. Instead of punctuation, you could add a few words here and there, which would serve as transitions. For example:
... silk-lined with a tiny triangle
cut out at the neckline [where]
my fingers gently pressed ...
- I feel the second half has too many adjectives (transparent, thin, sharp)... Instead of making the poem more rich, I think these words distract from the true star of the poem: "zipper sliced along her spine." This is the line that convinced me to leave a comment (as I so rarely do that anymore). Plus, I think the emphasis should be on the dress, and how the dress influences the body, rather than how the body influences the dress (does that make sense? I'm not sure it does, but oh well...). The poem isn't really about "her," it's about the dress, and it's a reflection of the speaker.
Thinking about it... I was trying to figure out a way that you could make the last 3 lines connect to the previous section about the object's lower body... Instead, maybe lead with the section about her legs, move upwards to her waist and chest, then to the delicious part about the speaker's hand on her throat and mouth? I'm not sure about it myself, but I think it would lend itself to a slower burn, and the reveal at the end might be more of a gasp-worthy moment. As the previous comment mentioned, they thought it would be happily ever after until line 6/7. I think you could have made her believe the fairy tale a bit longer (or maybe I'm evil ).
Honestly, this poem is 100% delicious and I am totally in love with it as is. I just thought I'd throw some things into the air, to see if you like any of them :)
I liked the subtle turn of context.
The first few lines gave me no doubt the poem would end in a happily ever after. Then pressed larynx. Clavicle, skinned knee sharp blades and zipper sliced along her spine. Descriptions that didn't sit well in my stomach.
A love of sorts..