I have always secretly (or not so secretly) loved Kim Addonizio.
Her most famous poem (arguably) is:
What Do Women Want?
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
However, there is a problem with this poem. The title is all wrong. It should be “What does Kim Addonizio want?”. As written, it is rather presumptuous and begging for a response. Today over at Eunoia Review there is a poem written ‘after’ Kim’s I want that adapts the title to something much more direct and honest, with the presumption taken out (and it’s a fine poem too).
That poet is not the first to feel like issuing a response, either. See this one from Brenda Shaughnessy.
Your one good dress
should never be light. That kind of thing
feels like a hundred shiny-headed waifs backlit
and skeletal, approaching. Dripping and in
unison, murmuring, “We are you.”
No. And the red dress (think about it,
redress) is all neckhole. The brown
is a big wet beard with, of course, a
backslit. You’re only as sick as your secrets.
There is an argument for the dull-chic,
the dirty olive and the Cinderelly. But
those who exhort it are only part of the conspiracy:
“Shimmer, shmimmer,” they’ll say. “Lush, shmush.”
Do not listen. It’s a part of the anti-obvious
movement and it’s sheer matricide. Ask your
mum. It would kill her if you were ewe gee el why.
And is it a crime to wonder, am I. In the dark a dare,
Am I now. You put on your Niña, your Pinta,
your Santa María. Make it simple to last your whole
life long. Make it black. Glassy or deep.
Your body is opium and you are its only true smoker.
This black dress is your one good dress.
Bury your children in it. Visit your pokey
hometown friends in it. Go missing for days.
Taking it off never matters. That just wears you down.
So yeah. I have always secretly (or not so secretly) loved Kim Addonizio. I need to stop doing that.