Originally read: November 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: George David Clark
The language shows a differentiation between what is real and what is made to be fantastical. This divide is further compounded with the adjusted lines, and the fact that each stanza is ten lines long to contain the divide.
The first stanza has a sense of motion because the poem opens up in the present, and also with a prepositional phrase, "Behind you lie a hundred yards of satin / paid out in a thin line" which should locate us, but rather dislocates. There's just hundreds of yards of satin behind that, "trailed around the house in slinky corkscrews, / tangled in the ficus / like a kite." This image dominates the setting, but note that this image is still behind, we don't know what is forward.
Yet, when trying to get forward the poem goes for reasons expanding on the now, "Now your knees need rest, your eyelids. / Just sit a second, / Red Dress." Now this is the first instant of a command from the speaker, "Just sit a second" as though the you is a very specific identity and now the reader is placed in the status of voyeur. "Our guests are gone. Let's spool / the evening's ravel back / around you." The language here is dreamlike in the sense that the now is going "behind" to the evening's "ravel" (situation and scene parallel to this). Everything is coming together: tangling and enlightening all at once.
And here's the conceit that starts on the second stanza, "The hardest task for fantasists is clearly hosting realist" stop here. The speaker and the "you" identify themselves as fantasists; meanwhile, they are hosting something realist -- opposites, yes, but in what way? To me, the definition of both unravels as the poem continues with contrasts like, "pairing romance / with meatloaf on a budget of nothing, playing wit / and waitress." Yes, these images are together; however, the images are so disparate (wit and waitress) that they seem more situational or rather situational enough to change easily through.
[...] Your grace could make
a hospital hospitable.
but while others convalesce. you worry at some flaw.
Even now you hold
the bourbon like a handrail. Red Dress, it's designed
to let you fall
So the "you" becomes more prominent in the second stanza. The speaker has given the you the appositive of "Red Dress" and now the you becomes a symbol more than a person. But up to this point, the speaker breaks down the you with a shot of the you's hospitality, worries, and need for the drink -- whisky in the first part, bourbon on the second. And each mention of alcohol adds a level to the Red Dress, an extended crutch.
However, the speaker lays off the Red Dress and goes towards the design aspect -- the artifice, "this room where the glitz is kitsch, / let's slide off / our seats like dolls." And then there's the difference between "porcelain" and ""fabulous outfit, one stylish / even wrinkled." Yes, these two are a set, but notice the attention to detail on the "outfit" rather than the dolls. Note that the dolls have a set appearance; meanwhile, the outfit could be anything:
And if Saturday's not washed and pressed for us
let's let it come without that pomp
It's a mood change, the Red Dress and the speaker are "we" again. This sort of emotional roller coasted is, again, mimicked with the form, but with the focus on the clothing -- the weight comes to the dynamic features of clothes versus the static appearance of porcelain.
The last stanza has two invitations in it. The first is to "lie down the way / a caravan of camels / hauling bolts of velvet through the jostled night" this is the fantasists talk versus the second invitation, "to be bright / and poor and young" this is more of the realist talk.
But there's no depth beyond this point -- only the accusatory talk of the Red Dress which reflects back to the speaker who want, "invite me / to kiss you / with your eyes closed." This idea of dominance. This idea of definition of both fantasists and realists defined by the speaker through the lens of the Red Dress while the Red Dress has nothing, but "the taste of Kentucky on your [her] tongue"