Then it will stand alone and listen to the new silence,feel the empty air breathe in and out and where it will,filling old creases, blowing away warm impressions.Itself again, chaste, regal, as if it had been waitingfor this moment to return to its mannequin form;delicate husk, untouched, unworn, it can hang nowif it wants, swing its lonely folds behind a door.
In time it might forget the body who lived inside it,that quick and lovely thing whose eager skin filledto bursting every curve and seam. It might forgetthe first stain, the nips and small tears, the cunningunravelling of thread that followed as a matter of course beforethe final tumble, the fumbling, the cursing and the ripwhen it was thrown across the floor to lie, flayed
- perhaps ruined, as it had to be taken away,laid out beneath an interrogation of lightswhere a man in a gown, in a whirl of steam and gas, bowedhis head to the task: to remove the occasion from the dress.And when it was done he wrapped it up and it shonefrom so much attention and loss, its intimate tucks and foldsre-pressed, dry, clean and beautifully stitched up.
poem is from Greta Stoddart's debut collection, an outstanding book for
which she was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for 2002. Like
all her poems it bears re-reading and mulling over. Jo Shapcott wrote of
her that she is ‘an unnervingly good poet. Her poems are deceptively
serene, characterized by an elegiac tone under which a suggestion of
unease constantly shivers . . . always musical, always true, these are
poems to dwell on'. The way this poem withholds and then reveals the
dress's history in the final stanza shows Greta Stoddart's skill in what
one might call the manipulative side of dramatic poetry, if
manipulative were not now a word with negative connotations.
Stoddart was born in Henley-on-Thames in 1966 and grew up in Belgium
and Oxford. Having lived and studied in Paris and Manchester, she now
lives in London where she works as poetry tutor at Morley College.
Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.