Friday, April 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Yellow Dress

Photo Credit

I'm enjoying the Progressive Poem (here's today's line), and it's got me thinking about how I usually write a poem. It's so different to be working with many sensibilities instead of just one. Usually my poems come entirely from my own brain, my own digesting of what's going on around and in me. Nobody else could write exactly what I do, in exactly the way I do.

Those ruminations made me think of my yellow dress. This poem comes from a memory that nobody else shares (except maybe Michelle, whom you'll meet in the second line). I found a picture of a yellow dress to illustrate the post, but the point is really the dream quality of the dress and all it's come to represent to me in those many (ahem) years since that summer afternoon.

Yellow Dress

One July afternoon in Paris
Michelle and I went into a little shop
and I tried on a yellow dress.

(I had a backpack full of
my Carte Orange and
my book of All the French Verbs Ever and
probably some poetry.
And, of course, a bunch of cliches.
I put down my backpack
to try on that dress.)

What a silky, flattering dress it was
and Michelle encouraged me to buy it
but I didn't
because it cost too much.

Probably my life would have been different
if I'd bought that dress.
I would have been beautiful
and irresistible
and my boyfriend would never have left me.
I would have worn sweatpants a lot less often
and taken better care of my skin
and not cried so much.

If I had bought that yellow dress
I bet I would be taller
and more confident
and weigh twenty pounds less.
I would be a better cook
and not so emotional
and I would wear cooler shoes.
I would write clear, incisive, convincing prose.
I would never yell at my children.
I would be altogether smoother
and more polished.

I looked great in that dress
(of course I was nineteen and hadn't had any babies yet)
and if I had bought it
(of course by now it would be faded by the tropical sun)
I would be a goddess
(of course I would have given it away years ago).

Sometimes I think about the lovely me I left behind
when I walked out of the store,
saying goodbye to that dress.
That was a yellow dress from Paris.
That was a perfect summer afternoon.

Ruth, from

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Katya said...

I have a red, portable typewriter that I almost bought in Tokyo that periodically serves a similar function in my daydreams.
Thank you for sharing your beautifully evocative poem.

Anonymous said...

Ruth, I love you and I love your poetry. Thanks for sharing this poem again: I like it very much.

Tara said...

Ah, that was a beautiful dress! We all have that should-have-been bought item that, looking back, would have been the transformative thing in our lives....always fun to look back and ponder the possibilities!
P.S. Loved the poem, and it's wistfulness.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Great poem, Ruth. Most of us do probably have some version of that yellow dress fantasy! Of course, a cute, skinny 19-year-old couldn't have written that poem, so I'm thankful you went on to live in the real world. Happy Poetry Month!

violet said...

Ruth, I love this poem. I have so been there. But I have also bought one or two 'yellow dresses.' Just so you know, they don't change everything, at least not forever.

Tricia said...

I like thinking about the bunch of cliches in your backpack :^)

In my case, the yellow dress was a conference I didn't go to (in Crete, no less!). I occasionally wonder how my career might have been different had I gone.

GatheringBooks said...

Hi Ruth, what a heart-tugging poem of everything that represents what we think we may not be at present - all that we are, and everything we could be. That moment in France was captured beautifully through verse.

Betsy Hubbard said...

An afternoon made more beautiful and touchable after your description. Nicely captured.

Liz Steinglass said...

What a beautiful poem. I love the transformation that happens when you try on the dress and then how the meaning of the dress changes over time. Trying on clothes as a grown-up sometimes reminds me of dressing up in costume as a child. You put something special on and suddenly, momentarily you're transformed into someone else. Thanks for sharing it.

Mary Lee said...

Love the blend of dream and reality. I'm pretty sure we all have had a Yellow Dress moment in our past.

Irene Latham said...

Ruth, I LOVE THIS POEM. Incidentally, I have a poem called "Black Dress," which is completely different, except for the dress part, and I have a friend who wrote a poem called, "Red Dress." Perhaps we (you) should do a whole closet collection? :)

Jessica Stock said...

So, so great.

Irene said...

Thanks, Ruth. So beautiful.

Amy LV said...

Ruth - This is simply perfect, and I could not be happier to have found it today. Thank you for linking back. I adore this poem and will now go read the other "Yellow Dress" poem.