WHO’S CHIRPING YER HAND?
(fashion reportage wallpaper theater)
My mother always made her eyebrows on a Maybelline brow pencil
She rarely left the house without mascara
Griselda says she says it while lounging on her bed and licking her fingers to deal with magazine pages and she says it so bad somehow she is so so bad
I remember watching in fascination as she separated her lashes with a safety pin to break up the clumps
When we come back to Griselda, she is all mint lozenges &
ironing the detachable lace edges of her shams.
My mother had a blue silk kimono bathrobe, a dragon,
Griselda Giselle scream together in the dawn-y light
Griselda Giselle in denim jumpers
wearing nothing but expired Charlie perfume
Who are Griselda Giselle on me leaking on me?
wanted on the set
want you to want them to want you to catch their ankle bones in your teeth
inside of the sliver of hot fake moon
here ladies here
recline here in the little golden light of sucking on,
Always a white nightgown. Long cotton.
Lacy top part like Little House on the Prairie.
Sometimes a ruffle at the bottom. Sometimes a faded color that had become mostly white, like it had been accidentally bleached. Sea green bleached. Never a sexy nightgown.
The palm tree curtains drop there.
They get the whole audience screaming.
Now, girls, dig it: patriotic colors & orange frosted lipstick smeared on as blush.
(Speaking of blush,)
In the late eighties/early nineties: a tea length, shapeless/drapey, scoop-neck, short-sleeve dress with loose, short sleeves, the smudged, bright, “artsy” roses in the print emerging from a neutral background. Open-toed, bone-colored Naturalizer sandals.
Rose-colored lipstick. Rose-colored lipstick. Rose-colored lipstick. Rose-colored lipstick. Rose-colored lipstick. Rose-colored lipstick.
BLUSHING HOLLERING LIKE AVOIDING AN AFTERNOON OF AVOIDING YOUR MA’S QUESTIONS
Drusilla won’t stand for the hands-on-hips ironing the gum-popping charm the sex smell rubbed so hot on your lips and thumbs you can barely stand it
Drusilla is absolute Georgia O’Keefe and the walkways outside of the Louvre
and fossil fossil fern flung fish the ocean the yarrow in a vase,
like this, though: VAHZ
WAIT UP, BITCH: if it’s Drusilla poking around my redhot car-room
coming here all ordinary
for an interview with the queen
and for a puff of my stash,
then are there two Drusillas?
And who’s feeding lines today?
And then now soon yesterday it’s obvious:
Drusilla is two
Giselle and Griselda are sobbing over some tabloids
all of them fly girls
all them in husband-y t-shirts threadbare on the nipples
Drusilla sleeps on a motorcycle and chokes on her lollipop.
Griselda writes quotes in a moldy steno notebook.
Giselle wears a prom dress in a gas station.
Drusilla please come to town,
Please admit something in front of the swollen applause.
Make it Burbank. Make it video. Make it fucked up.
WHOSE MOTHER? AND WHOSE LINE WAS THIS ONE?
I don’t have my measuring rod with me, but I’m willing.
Drusilla, are you
at the edge of town
in white and grey stripes, a peach-hued belt?
Last of all, there was the red dress.
It was taffeta and mid-length with a skirt of some slight volume
a tie at the waist
a skirt of some volume.
I was in love with that dress and when she wore it I felt jealousy and I wanted to be her.
Griselda, come to the very front of the stage for this part.
Giselle is behind, emerging from your mind.
Here, the curtains, the yellow satin, the stain of the falcon’s eye close at hand at shoulder-level at the masking tape X of here here step here
I was in love with that dress and when she wore it I felt jealousy
and I wanted to be her.
I wanted to be her.
ARE YOU MORE THAN A MINIATURIST?
ARE YOU MORE THAN AN IMITATION?
ARE YOU MORE THAN A SLOB A COWARD CONSTANTLY COMPARING YOUR SUFFERING AND YOUR CLOTHES TO OTHERS’?
DID WE BLOCK THIS SCENE RIGHT?
In this one, we need all three of them.
Pinch up your elbow skin, all of you.
Each one of you
under the bare light bulb
read from the podium. Read it breathy and last day of a murder scheme and
heart-wrenching as a crucifix under water.
She never wore contacts, just glasses large enough to hide her eye bags.
I like to think that it’s my mother’s intense interest in clothing and makeup and nice expensive clean looking clothes that accounts for my disinterest in clothes and makeup.
She has for decades kept a style that has ease and manageability.
She doesn’t like to brush her hair.
I also am fond of memories of her with a red handkerchief folded into a triangle, wrapped over her hair, and folded at the base of her skull behind the neck, which she wore to dust or to work in the garden.
She wore a turtleneck that had tiny holly leaves and berries printed on it.
Most days she wore an old sweatshirt and ripped jeans.
She had a lot of clothes, though she did not have any particular interest in fashion.
I liked her closet, a walk-in with a light, a husband side, a wife side, the space long enough for a person to sleep, though no one ever did that.
Once, she bought a legit ball gown from Goodwill to wear to her holiday work party. It was black and satin(-y). There were ruffles. With some sequined silver lightning bolt decorations near the shoulder pads.
When my mom was promoted was also around that time in the early 90s when safari print bullshit was everywhere and I remember that she had a blouse with some strange khaki mixture of broad leaves, zebra print, and tigers that I was jealous of. She would pair it with a long, wide khaki skirt and wide-strapped sandals. Magical.
Winged. Puffy. Crispy. Charlie’s Angels, but lobbed.
There have not been many days in my mother’s life that she hasn’t dried her hair with a hair dryer and a round brush.
She permed her hair when I was very small, but then I remember it being feathered so that it framed her face very well.
Mostly she wore shorts or pants, t-shirts from races or club events.
HOW DOES THE SELF
THE SELF INHABITING THE PERFORMANCE
KNOW HOW TO DRESS THE LEAKAGE?
& HOW DOES IT DO WITH SHORTER FORMS?
Griselda and Giselle run to Drusilla’s open bloody arms.
The stage is set as a charming garden.
Cartoon-character bed sheets blow on the line.
GET IN YOUR CAGE BABY.
I wanted to be her.
This is PRECISELY how I have always operated.
Come on now a confession.
I like empty public spaces on holiday mornings.
I like pawnshops and poorly kept offices.
I like pop culture representations of Happenings.
I am a slob.
What I do is miniatures.
I have wanted to be every single girl ever.
I consume everything so awfully so ruthlessly so routinely.
I don’t even know what else there is.
He says please come to see me I say no you come home.
It’s a movie a play it’s my bed.
Ma, baby, Baby, Daddy:
I cannot afford to lick my stories off some dead mountain.
You can reach me here in the back bedroom. Telephone cord anklets.
A rueful rashy twisting of the lips. I say DARLING and I say a malady of daisies.
I say it sleeping coughing coughing on a dick I say it all morning on coffee cups.
Here’s the thing:
The theater must get very hot here.
The place has got to simply rot.
(Fashion reports, appearing in italics, come from email responses to interview questions. The respondents are: Lina David, Jessica Johnson, Megan Martin, Daniela Olszewska, Christine Simokaitis, Katie Sorenson, Carleen Tibbetts, Sara Wainscott, Della Watson.)
Olivia Cronk is the author of Louise and Louise Louise (The Lettered Streets Press, 2016) and Skin Horse (Action Books, 2012). She teaches at NEIU in Chicago. With Philip Sorenson, she edits The Journal Petra.