National Poetry Month Day 22: Oliver de la Paz

By

 

 

 

On Dressing Sons: A Colloquy

 

 

*
Beneath my fingers the buttons and the small worship of their clasps.

 

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Capacious—the world between breaths is capacious. Think of the potentials of a bare stage. Think of the riggings in the darkness. The curtains slide back. Zippers and hems. The mouths of shoes empty of them.

 

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They are animal and full of ache and shape; or they are shorn of shape and have filled the interstices of my thought; or they are neither mine nor theirs nor the idea of theirs. The rind of their clothing in heaps on the floor.

 

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Lungs in and out change the capacity of their shirts so that I am clothing a kind of buoyancy.

 

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Ritual by which the sun will not touch them. Ritual by which they will not feel cold. Ritual by which the wicked shall be repelled. Ritual by which we shall know them in a crowd.

 

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In another country they would own one outfit. They would take turns wearing it. They will be each other in stages. We will preserve our memories of who we were in seeing them dressed.

 

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I woke to find the eldest, nude facing the dresser. He stands and sways. There are no breezes in the house but he makes his own breezy movements.

 

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Because he is ten and cannot tie his shoes he insists I double knot every shoe to eliminate potentials.

 

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Hinged from their shoulders, a flamboyance. Color on their skin like a skin. Collars askew in their plaid Sunday shirts. Tidied up feet. Steady little birds.

 

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And we will step into our potentials. And we will witness gilded cars breeze past with their wanting to shear us from our fabrics. And we will clutch our collars holding our skins together. So that we may know our skin. So that I may keep them held and whole.

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Photograph of Oliver de la Paz by Papandrea Photography.


Oliver de la Paz is the author of five collections of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, Requiem for the Orchard, Post Subject: A Fable, and The Boy in the Labyrinth. He also co-edited A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. A founding member, Oliver serves as the co-chair of the Kundiman advisory board. He has received grants from the NYFA, the Artist’s Trust, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. His work has been published or is forthcoming in journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tin House, The Southern Review, and Poetry Northwest. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at PLU. More from this author →