blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



The Melancholy Tailor

It seemed everything he stitched was a destiny.
As he pinned up the shoulders, the darts
under the breasts, the hems of the trousers
he felt as close to their futures
as he was to their bodies.

When he fitted the pleatless pants of the groomsman
he knew a bridesmaid would unzip them.
Oh he hemmed her waltz-length taffeta too.
And her sister’s. And the moonfaced roommate’s
from New York. He knew which of the aqua
dresses would flow down like a wave
to the feet of the kissing couple. He made little tucks
to flatter the roommate’s waistline.

Velcro he scoffed at way past its invention.
But the fingerless kid from the war in Vietnam
came in and said “velcro.” With his paws he pointed
to zipper and buttons. “Next week,” said the tailor,
planning his order. He saw the man fastening
his own coats and pants, ripping off his own clothes
with the drama of sound, doing whatever
in the rest of his life he chose to do.

The CEO was sizing down. This man’s waist
went in, and in again. Was it sex or sickness?
The tailor tried not to wonder, though he knew
either way, it wouldn’t work out. He fitted
such clients with weight-loss in silence,
kneeling before them to taper the legs,
his mouth full of pins.

Once, when he was thirty, he had measured
from the cowlneck, long-sleeved top
to the slit, tight skirt’s hem, a dress of pale velvet.
She stood on his new-painted platform
turning when he said turn
as he pinned in every inch to fit
her elongated, sinuous curves.
And after she was gone, he held the gown
against him with one arm and with the other
swept his sewing table clean of clothes.
He stitched and stitched at the small black machine.
And the juddering noise, his deft foot on the treadle,
the flow of warm velvet through his fingers
was the last time he didn’t know what would happen. 

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