“Darling” by Jonathan Langley

Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2021: Editor’s Choice


Into Thee by Susy Kamber, collage of a red dress seeming to materialize from nowhere

Image: “Into Thee” by Susy Kamber. “Darling” was written by Jonathan Langley for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, March 2021, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

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Jonathan Langley


He felt shame and I did not,
The fire alarm, the whole school, the worst timing:
A play. And both of us in dresses, lipstick, wigs.
There was laughter, and pity. Nothing worse a boy could be:
A girl.
He felt shame but I felt pretty. Thought:
I would like to do this again. We were ten
And also innocent.

In college I was Goth and he was not. We didn’t speak.
My fishnets and mascara, black lipstick
And black petticoat for skirt made me feel
Like one of the girls
On the dancefloor
Who I loved.
In college he was butch and gay and went hunting.

He lives with his husband now;
I with my wife.
I’m too fat and old and beardy to pull off the femme boy shtick
And he: conventional careerist bore.
I like my life and who, the man, I have become.

Once or twice a year I remember the red dress
And their faces. I wonder
If perhaps I missed a choice.
I like my life. The man who I’ve become.

Once every two years I have a thought about the dress.
The threadbare feeling
Growing wispy in my mind.
Moth and rust
Wear and tear
Pretty and a shame.

The ten-year-old who could have grown up different
Needs darning,
Patching. New cloth cut for grafting.
Skin and bright eyes and time and choice ahead.
Slowly disappearing.

It’s not like the one I see each day is faring better.
Much of the faded detail now filled in by memory.
People look at this and also stare.

This old thing? I just threw it on.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2021, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “A poem is a journey through possibility; it’s a momentary shift in perspective that can contain a whole world. ‘Darling’ is a fine example of this magic at work. It’s also full of the music, with its internal rhyme and repetition, that’s required to cast a spell.”

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