February 8, 2011

Diane Wakoski

BELL BOTTOM TROUSERS

bell bottom trousers, coat of navy blue,
she loves a sailor and he loves her too.
                 —Guy Lombardo WWII song lyric

Mine were brown velvet,
lush as sable. ’70s wide and swinging,
swirling outward from my calves,
vaquero rhythmed, and very expensive,
the cost of a ’40s war savings-bond. Driving across
America, alone in Green Greed
                 —or was it the Fox-brown Audi?—
I laid them flat across the backseat, like hero’s flags,
covered them with a Mexican serape,
keeping them intact, uncrushed, ready for The Visit.
The Evening. The Expanse-of-Pacific-wrapped-around-me-Event,
where I would wear them.

When the night collapsed into next day,
and I fell—alone—into my motel room king-sized bed,
like a duffle bag thrown into a locker,
sleeping the salty sleep of a girl who dreams of oceans and the man
coracled upon it, I flung
the bell bottoms onto the foot
of the bed, where the tossed heavy-textured spread covered them
during my flailing night, thus
causing their
loss,
                 I leaving them, not unlike my sailor-father
                                  leaving me.
The bell bottoms
                 next morning, forgotten,
                                  abandoned,
in my haste to travel on.

That’s what I am thinking about
forty years later,
I left them behind, and
just to fill you in on my concern, I who hate telephones,
did call the next day,
but they said no one had found them. That’s
what they said.
Unlike my bookkeeper mother,
I don’t keep a list
of items left behind, yet these
brown-as-my-father’s-eyes trousers swirl
into history. They seem memorable like a
lost ring, topaz or sardonyx carved into a cameo.
They’ve conjured images of my father’s sea duty
to the Aleutians—bears hibernating—
or Pearl Harbor—yellow hibiscus worn behind an ear.
They floated, a topaz,
fallen brown-faceted and envious
out
of its setting,
my missing sailor pants,
worn in the days when I used to dance—
               short breaths like the exhale of cigarette smoke,
               animating the free swing of bell bottoms. A
small mishap in one
of many journeys, just a memory,
like the folded flag,
I can’t let go of.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010