Breath & Shadow
A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
By Nancy Scott
“You don't dress like a poet,” Barbara advised.
“Poets dress like they can't think about mundane things like fashion. Or maybe poets want to draw attention to themselves. Or they want audiences to think they have odd artistic flair. You just dress like a normal person.”
I heard the truth of Barbara's observation. I didn't say that since matching colors was not a high-level skill in my repertoire and I had no fashion sense, I opted for cautious. That, even to me, didn't sound poet-like. Poets should sound fearless, or at least creative. Maybe they should look that way too?
I believed that reading my carved phrases from Braille text gave me enough attention and oddity. Was I wrong about that?
Barbara's comment wouldn't leave my head. So I bought the poetry outfit—slacks and a jacket with touchable stars. Stars are magical. Every poet knows that.
People liked the outfit, but no one mentioned wildness. And I was too chicken to get wilder.
Until Kathy and I were shopping in the craft store.
Kathy wanted containers to hold beads and glitter to use in her story-telling events. She understood a little wildness.
Kathy knew that I loved the feel of fur, so when she saw the multi-colored feather and fur trims, she said, “You'll like these. You could wear one as a boa.”
She chose the softest fur with her eyes. I tested it with fingers. We were in the sewing department. It might have actually been a strand of edging, but boa it could be.
I could wear it tucked up or long and wavy. Just like a poem it could be more than one thing. It could turn surprising and make points. It could match or soothe or shout or almost strangle. And it would always be something to play with just by moving the line.
I draped it around my neck and slipped the ends back to hold it secure. It clung as if it belonged.
Soft, comforting, warm, narrow, mighty; It was also less than five bucks.
As long as it's not sizzling or blizzarding the next time I read poetry in public, I'm going to wear it. It will be my boa because I say so. It will be my decorative margin to hide behind when plush edges are necessary. It will be the trick. It will sibilantly speak before I say a word. My audience and I will listen to this geometry of chosen difference. And surely we will hear magic.
Nancy Scott, Easton PA, is an essayist and poet. Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”