Molly Bess Rector


          a cento


I stand at the window of a bridal shop where huge dresses
condemn me.

I stand here on the sidewalk
and there is nothing in the universe like diamond.

My reflection blurs in the shop windows.
Faceless black veils stop shopping to watch through the glass.

They're locked together outside a gift shop outside
of the flower shop,

over the shop where silk is sold,
in every shop and on the roads.

They are waiting for me to do something
to touch some bolt of cloth, or choose a gift.

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them.
Please can I have a man who wears corduroy.

The sweater fits like a lover.
Come home with me now, to my house.

Shop window redemption:
I dress to express a hoped for solution.

The saleswoman had brought velvet,
bolts of satin—

like hollow angels
for me to purchase. If there's a place of not meaning,

if a life needn't be useful to be meaningful,
I am there,

praying to a closet. My mother says before I
broke in half and spilled everywhere,

I was a skinsuit.
I dreamed that I was a rose,

I understood with horror then with joy,
and went shopping.




Cento credits, in order: Eula Biss, June Jordan, Frederick Seidel, Jack Spicer, Jennifer Grotz, Frederick Seidel, Jeff Hoffman, Luis García Montero, Amy Lowell, Ghirmai Yohannes, Robert Hass, Larry Levis, Walt Whitman, Selima Hill, Joseph O. Legaspi, S. W. Henry, Kari Edwards, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Toi Derricotte, Kay Ryan, James Galvin, Timothy Donnelly, Carl Dennis, Langston Hughes, Vandana Khanna, Paul Killebrew, Cathy Park Hong, James Weldon Johnson, Andrew Hudgins, Ali Warren