(Perth Amboy, NJ, 1962)
A feel for finery? I mastered it at seventeen
in Stein’s Boutique unwrapping taffeta, silk shantung
and lacy overlays, racking them along the aisles
where salesgirls worked their pitch
and matrons needed hours of pampering.
Mrs. Sixteen-Plus? Curvaceous in the satin twill.
Mrs. Husband-Cheats? Blossoms in the floral print.
Mrs. Mousy-Hair? Floats in beige chiffon
to cocktails at the Rotary, dances at the Elks.
Conspiracy of words or well-placed compliments?
I wasn’t sure. When Mr. Stein, master
of the fashion scene, perused from top
to toe and grinned, Exquisite taste!
Perfect style! blushing faces beamed.
But what’s true? I asked myself—scavenging
through dressing rooms for lipstick stains,
armpit smells, seams that stretched.
I’d gather up the garments left behind—
assuring them some day they’d host a swank event—
while salesgirls rang up hard-wrought sales
and Mrs. So-and-So strutted out
the dress shop door revived, refreshed.
Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, where she gardens, writes and plays with creative colleagues. Currently, she is president of the board of VoiceCatcher, a nonprofit that connects, inspires and empowers women writers and artists in great Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA.