By Debra Kay Vest

Time is a Brady Street thrift shop.  In the window,

a mumu blows with coconut palms above


a faux leopard cape. A red tam rides the headless,

wooden neck of a dress form.  How does it happen?


I try to resist, but go in. Then, mildew, mothballs

the reek of Lucky Strikes.  Garment racks shaggy


as buffalo.  There is no mirror. To exchange

this self. I paw through a dead woman’s


closet, can’t remember my size. Suddenly, in what

seems years, I wish for my mother, the tangled


handwritten lines of her memory. Next, a clerk

approaches, his lips female saying,  I know what


you want.  Trust me. I know you better than you know

yourself.  What I want.  I feel it then as it slips on, zipping


exactly over the curves of the wanting. That fit.  That

high. Like driving home in a new car. From the curb


I am envied, renamed:  India, Persephone, Sydney,

Paris.  For a long moment, a fraud I call love


lifts me from the floor…But soon the wanting is

back, blood-hot, bottomless.  Listen, I say, I’m


in a hurry. When do you close? Above me,

arms of beaded sweaters and tuxedos stretch     


and beckon across veined walls.  Finally, I discover

the back room. There, Marlene, her red hair ratted


toward the stars, removes a crushed shape from a garbage

bag of shadows on the floor. Absently, a cigarette


in one hand, she spreads the crumpled fabric over

the hanger’s metal bones, then draws the puffing steamer


down the wrinkled surface, releasing each crease

of memory, each fold of desire, each knot of grief.