Mark Doty

Peony silks,
in wax-light:
that petal-sheen,
gold or apricot or rose
candled into-
what to call it,
lumina, aurora, aureole?
About gowns,
the Old Masters,
were they ever wrong?
This penitent Magdalen's
wrapped in a yellow
so voluptuous
she seems to wear
all she's renounced;
this boy angel
isn't touching the ground,
but his billow
of yardage refers
not to heaven
but to pleasure's
textures, the tactile
sheers and voiles
and tulles
which weren't made
to adorn the soul.
Eternity's plainly nude;
the naked here and now
longs for a little
dressing up. And though
they seem to prefer
the invisible, every saint
in the gallery
flaunts an improbable
tumble of drapery,
a nearly audible liquidity
(bright brass embroidery,
satin's violin-sheen)
raveled around the body's
plain prose; exquisite
(dis?)guises; poetry,
music, clothes.
Nothing needs to be this lavish.
Even the words I'd choose
for these leaves;
intricate, stippled, foxed,
tortoise, mottled, splotched
-jeweled adjectives
for a forest by Fabergé,
all cloisonné and enamel,
a yellow grove golden
in its gleaming couture,
brass buttons
tumbling to the floor.
Who's it for?
Who's the audience
for this bravura?
Maybe the world's
just trompe l'oeil,
appearances laid out
to dazzle the eye;
who could see through this
to any world beyond forms?
Maybe the costume's
the whole show,
all of revelation
we'll be offered.
So? Show me what's not
a world of appearances.
Autumn's a grand old drag
in torched and tumbled chiffon
striking her weary pose.
Talk about your mellow
fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
thou hast thy music,
too; unforgettable,
those October damasks,
the dazzling kimono
worn, dishabille,
uncountable curtain calls
in these footlights'
dusky, flattering rose.
The world's made fabulous
by fabulous clothes.
From Atlantis by Mark Doty, published by Harper Perennial. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

A Green Crab's Shell by Mark Doty
Not, exactly, green:
At the Gym by Mark Doty
This salt-stain spot
Brian, Age 7 by Mark Doty
Broadway by Mark Doty
Under Grand Central's tattered vault
Deep Lane by Mark Doty
Heaven for Helen by Mark Doty
Helen says heaven, for her
Heaven for Stanley by Mark Doty
For his birthday, I gave Stanley a hyacinth bean
Letter to God by Mark Doty
Paul's Tattoo by Mark Doty
Robert Harms Paints the Surface
of Little Fresh Pond
by Mark Doty
Surface the action of the day
Signal by Mark Doty
Spent by Mark Doty
Late August morning I go out to cut
The Embrace by Mark Doty
You weren't well or really ill yet either;

Further Reading

Related Poems
Compendium of Lost Objects
by Nicole Cooley
Poems about Beauty
Endymion, Book I, [A thing of beauty is a joy for ever]
by John Keats
Muse & Drudge [just as I am I come]
by Harryette Mullen
Beauty Supply
by Lee Ann Brown
Design for a Silver Box in the Shape of a Melon, 1918
by Jonathan Thirkield
by Sara Teasdale
It's obvious
by Greg Hewett
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
by Anne Sexton
The Part of the Bee's Body Embedded in the Flesh
by Carol Frost
The Poster Girl’s Defence
by Carolyn Wells
Trees Need Not Walk the Earth
by David Rosenthal
Poems and Clothing
"What Do Women Want?"
by Kim Addonizio
Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
by W. B. Yeats
Black Jackets
by Thom Gunn
Black Nikes
by Harryette Mullen
Borrowed Dress
by Cathy Colman
by Peg Boyers
Dialect of a Skirt
by Erica Miriam Fabri
by Éireann Lorsung
by Tina Chang
Fat Southern Men in Summer Suits
by Liam Rector
My Shoes
by Charles Simic
Ode to a Dressmaker's Dummy
by Donald Justice
Old Coat
by Liam Rector
Red Shoes
by Honor Moore
by Robert Pinsky
The Plaid Dress
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Upon Julia's Clothes
by Robert Herrick
Wedding Dress
by Michael Waters
White T-shirt
by Lewis Ellingham