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Impersonating Rita Dove in the Clothing Store
by Linda Dove

It’s afternoon in South Pasadena and outside
sidewalks go grayer with rain. Inside is light
bouncing off merchandise, the business
of incandescence. I am fully
invested, fingering the brocade shoes,
Mah-jongg bracelets, velvet and polished bone.
Decadence scatters on the wall like rainbows
out of crystal. I decide leisurely on chiffon.

The saleswoman is black, mid-twenties,
hair looped like Heidi, dancer’s body.
At the cash register, she takes my Visa,
reads my name—How beautiful!—then
remembers that she may have heard it before.
I know you! You’re a poet, right? Before I
completely understand, her question catches me
in a hesitating nod. You’re in anthologies,
Perhaps this is the place to bring up
desire—hers and mine. To speak of all the ways
we stretch our lives. Yeah, she glows,
we read your stuff at Antioch—not too long ago,
She smiles. We picked those poems
. I imagine her pulling the all-nighter,
braided head falling asleep on those words
that were never mine. She will tell the story later,
at the coffee bar or over Chinese take-out,
that the poet walked into her shop, in her town,
in California, in the rain.

So here is a confession: I am the thief who walked
off with your compliments, whose white face
didn’t ease the awkward moment: Oh, no, you mean
Rita Dove. We’ve all pulled all-nighters for her!

I must admit it felt good to pocket you, Rita,
for that minute in Pasadena. To allow recognition
to sheathe me like grace, soft precursor to shame.



Publication credit: In Defense of Objects. Bear Star Press, 2009. p. 46.

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