I just finished going through The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, and I didn’t hate it. I’ve been leafing through it for most of the summer trying to find ideas for and poems to share with my upcoming Creative Writing class, and I’ve found a whole gaggle of potential lessons. So, in honor of the book, I thought I’d post one of Addonizio’s poems that I really like.
"WHAT DO WOMEN WANT?"
by Kim Addonizio
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
I guess what I find so appealing about this poem (and all that I’ve read from Addonizio so far) is the clear, specific voice of the narrator. Despite the utter lack of physical description, I can totally see the speaker as she searches for this dress, tears it off the hanger, and wears it proudly through the dusty streets. The imagery is very nice, as depicted by the “slinging pigs” and “slick snouts” at the midway point.
All of this, of course, leads to the obvious question of what women want. Having been happily married for five+ years, having a good relationship with my mother and my mother-in-law, and working in a profession where the male-female ratio is something like 20-1, I feel I am as qualified to answer this question as much as any man alive. The simple answer is: she wants whatever the opposite is of what she wanted yesterday. It’s that easy. I’m guessing the speaker of this poem wanted black jeans yesterday, or maybe a nice fancy pair of boots; whatever it was, it was NOT a red dress.