BY AURELIA LORCA
I don’t want to write this down, I don’t want to tell you how I feel, but, I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink.
Love: a good fabric, a delightful print. I have found a name, a cartoon character, Miss Frizzle. Except I do not have a magic school bus, or a pet iguana on my shoulder - I am a high school English teacher with two cats, the poets of meow, William Shakespurr and Mister Edgar Allan Paw.
One of my students asked me if Mary Blair’s kittens were sushi? But it's not sushi, it's kittens drinking from a bowl. Mary Blair from Pinup Girl Clothing styled with a wide buckled black patten leather, and an old Betsey Johnson capped sleeve cropped sweater with a little pom-pom tie at the top. I wear a black lace camisole underneath the dress as it shows a bit too much of what I do not want to show. Maybe the pom-poms and the kittens are too much. Sometimes we need kittens and pom-poms.
(I don’t want to write this down, I don’t want to tell you how I feel. Love.) Today is kittens. No more Betsey Johnson, or the guilt of sweatshop labor. Kittens. Cotton. Circle skirts. (I don’t want to write this down, I don’t want to tell you how I feel. Love.) Loneliness. Here is my ego defense: I hoard dresses. It began during my first marriage. (I don’t want to write this down, I don’t want to tell you how I feel.)
He told me, “you’ll be nothing without me,” when he left me. I found a job, and summer writing workshops, and a community of poets, and the store Anthropologie, and another marriage. I gained 50 lbs, wrote a few chapbook of poems, found Torrid Clothes, an MFA program, a diet, dropped 70 lbs, discovered Betsey Johnson. I got divorced again in a cloud of family drama, and series of death. But the dresses, those pretty, and goofy Betsey party dresses, they hung in my closet, like fat.
And then I found love, yes I found love. I had love. BCBG, Red Valentino. No bow, no shade of pink, no fabric could mask what I felt. I wore a Betsey Johnson black dress the night he died, and then happy hoppy bunny earrings three days later, Easter Sunday. For his funeral, I wore a black dress with black hearts by Red Valentino. I want to forget. Each dress holds a memory. At best, they are bittersweet reminders of how often he told me, yes, I see you.
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Here is the reaction formation in kitten prints. Everything is fine. I am not lonely. I have friends. A closet of happy skirts, of new memories, and Mary Blair because we went to see her art exhibit together at the Disney Museum. He said Mary Blair out Disneyed disney, while sipping Four loko from a giant 7-11 cup. I am now collecting every print by Mary Blair on Pinupgirl Clothing. They mean something.
All the dresses mean something. The dress he said I looked hot in. The purple dress he did a double take when he saw me wearing. The Mary Blair because I know how much it would have made him laugh, and shake his head at a dress with a print of kittens drinking from a bowl.
Dress up, show up, never give up. It is a prayer. A ritual. Here is a print of kittens or Halloween candy or Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house, or a Christmas tree skirt that lights up because after Christmas we were all uncertain what we would face. Dress up, show up, never give up. A newspaper-print dress of The Daily Prophet, Voldemort Returns. Another print of Harry Potter to wear on November 12th. The watermelon skirt when walking in Seville last summer the same day of the Bourdeaux church massacre. The Guardia Civil was in Plaza de Cortes Inglis carrying machine guns, and their hands were on the trigger. I could have been Muslim, arguably many of us in Al-Andalus looked Muslim. I was wearing a skirt that looked like a watermelon. Me le gusta la sandia. I smiled at the men with machine guns. I was not cute. I was terrified. All of us in Al-Andalus looked Muslim. My students drew a picture of me for my birthday in that watermelon skirt. I am smiling, and happy. I know how to smile and mean it. Even though inside there is terror and loneliness. Dress up, show up, never give up.
Are such things too much to be worthy of language? Too visceral, yes, too silly to imagine it anything else than what I feel, my sense of it, the textured delight. There is no need for metaphor-only touch that exceeds it. (A well designed dress speaks as much truth and beauty as well designed poem. ) Yes, it is the feminine. Yes, it is the beautiful. Yes, it is the innocent which I wear without fear of shame or praise: I know how to climb out of purgatory without involving rosaries or wrestling with angels. It is hard to be so hard. It is impossible to be so soft. I swallow bitter sorrows, strive to strip hatred from my tongue, and wear pretty dresses and skirts like weapons.
NICOLE HENARES (Aurelia Lorca) is a poet, storyteller, and high school English teacher who lives in San Francisco, California. She has her BA in English from UC Davis, her MFA in Writing and Consciousness from California Institute of Integral Studies, and is an alumna of the Voices of Our Nation Writing Workshops. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, Huizache, Luna Luna, Quailbell, and Razorhouse Magazine. Her manuscript Monterey Gothic won Honorable Mention in Leapfrog Press's Fiction Contest. She is interested in how Lorca’s duende, the duende of Andalusia and flamenco, is a cross cultural spirit.