In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral

Fabric of fa 019

In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral is a poem written by Erin Belieu which appears in her latest book Black Box. The textiles based machine embroidery was created by Alison Little as a response to the poem. Erin has kindly given her permission to use the poem as the subject matter for the artwork and for the poem to be reproduced for this article.

 

In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral

—ERIN BELIEU

1.

I root through your remains,

looking for the black box. Nothing left

but glossy chunks, a pimp’s platinum

tooth clanking inside the urn. I play you

over and over, my beloved conspiracy,

my personal Zapruder film—look,

here’s us rounding the corner, here’s me

waving at the crowd. God, you were lovely

in your seersucker suit. And weren’t we happy

then, before the cross-fire triangulation?

Answer me, dead man.

Wait. Here comes the best part,

where my head snaps back and you crawl

blood-addled and ferocious

from the moving vehicle….

2.

I am undead and sulfurous. I stink like a tornado.

I lift my scarlet tail above your grave

and let the idiot villagers take me

in torchlight

one by one by one by one….

Your widowed Messalina, my soprano

cracks the glasses on the buffet at the after party.

I know you can hear me.

Is my hair not coiffed like the monster’s bride,

lightning bolts screeching at my temples?

What electrified me

but your good doctor’s hand alone?

3.

I’m a borscht-belt comedienne

working the audience from behind

your headstone.

I shimmy onstage between Pam

And Her Magic Organ and

the gigantic poodle act.

Your coffin is a tough room.

Mourners talk through my set,

down schmutz-colored highballs, wait

for the fan dancer to pluck

her scuzzy feathers. But you

always loved

the livestock, didn’t you?

I say how many of you folks are in

from Jersey?

The microphone sweats

like your cock did in my hands.

4.

I help the Jews drape the mirrors. I peel the foil from

the Protestant’s bleak casseroles. The Catholics and Agnostics

huddle in the parking lot, smoking a memorial bowl.

My dear, even the worst despot in his leopard skin fez

will tell you: the truth doesn’t win, but it makes an appearance,

though it’s a foreign cavalry famous for bad timing and

half-assed horsemanship. History will barely remember that you

were yellow and a cheat, a pixilated bi-valve who consumed

as randomly as the thunderheads pass, and yet, how strange,

how many of us loved you well. So tenderly, I’ll return

what you gave me—a bleached handkerchief, a Swiss army knife

bristling with pointless blades. Tenderly, I return everything,

leaving my best evidence in your bloodless lap

5.

I go to our Chinese take away,

where the placemats say I’m a snake

and you were my favorite pig, though

astrologically you were a wasting

disease and I’m the scales of justice.

Coincidence?

Get down on your knees

and cross yourself all you want:

all systems are closed systems, dead man.

I keep my saltshaker holstered in my garter belt,

ready to spill.

6.

I recite the fairy tale

in which only I can save you: it’s our story,

so there’s a swamp instead of a forest,

and no trail but a river agog with water moccasins

winding through the cypress knees.

Your faithful Gerta, true sister

in my red pinafore,

I’ve tracked you doggedly for miles,

appearing at the critical moment,

when you take the Turkish Delight into your mouth.

I’ve arrived just in time!

It’s impossible to miss me, eager as a stain

behind the Swamp Queen’s white shoulder,

your tattered avenger, your loyal roach, who’s wanted only

you in every suppurating hut, who’s belly-crawled

through the shit-filled bogs to find you,

to whom you gave your vow, my will undone, family

asunder, my home disappeared by the charm of

your girlish tears…

and that’s it. Nothing comes next.

That’s the moment you decide, dead man.

You look into my face and gulp her

candy down. You shoot it like a bad oyster.

No matter

how I tell it, this world ends when

you swallow.

7.

I was never your Intended,

never meant to be the official widow

like that plain, chinless girl I refused to recognize

or comprehend.

But the plain ones are patient, aren’t they?

I’ll admit, she’s earned her orchestra seats

at this burial the old-fashioned way.

She’s up front, next to your mama,

that Chanel commando baked medium-well

in her spray-on tan. A rare example

of the real Southern lady, how many nights

did it cost her, patrolling

the family compound for Jezebels like me?

Your women, dead man. From here

they look like two snap peas squatting

in the same pod.

And they did their job, didn’t they?

They made it easy for you?

But later, once the ladies go,

I’ll climb down to you again.

I’ll come to you in that dirty box

where we’ve already slept for years,

keeping our silent house

under their avalanche of flowers.

8.

EYE AM THE PROMISED VISITATION

PRIESTESS OF BLACK POPLARS

MY TREES R HUNG W/ BRAZEN BELLS

EYE HAVE AUGURED THE PREGNANT SOW’S INTESTINES

RORSCHACHED                    THE PICKLED WORM

GLUED TO THE BOTTOM OF YR SHOT GLASS

EYE BRING U NEWS OF                  THE UNIVERSE

AND THE NEWS                 AINT GOOD               DEAD MAN

B-HOLD!

THE ZOMBIE COCKTAIL HOUR            OF THE YEARS TO CUM

A PURGATORY            UNBENDING AS
A BADLANDS

HI-WAY

IN THE T-LEAVES               EYE SPY YR OUTLINE

YR CORPSE                  SNORING IN A VINE-

STRANGLED HOUSE

REBEL DRAG MOUNTS THE WALLS                    LIKE A CONFEDERATE

HARD ROCK CAFÉ                O! THE BLURRED DAYZ

COLLAPSING INTO DINNERS                  WHILE THE MAID BURNS

THE FAMILY BISCUITS                  & YR WOMAN BEATS

THE GRAVY STIFF                  U ARE LOST
GANYMEDE            GONE THAT BOY

WHO POURED HIMSELF                  WHOLE INTO THE SIBYL’S

LOVING CUP                NOW EYE CUM
TO BURY U

4 EYE AM
THE GHOST OF X-MAS PAST                      AND YR FUTURE

BEGINS          NOW                 DEAD MAN

9.

I do not desist in my delusion    do not permit the victor’s history

will not admit your fake religion    what jams your fingers

in the dry vagina of tin idylls    will not    will not    go quietly

your evil goody    who cries me in the marketplace    who knocks

my ear to the pillory with false instruments    my crimes never

crimes    for firstly    I be the pretty pony of all plague    slant-gashed

a coil beneath my scum of loveliness    No!    I was    I always am

your yellow roses in a beer bottle    your weakness and reward

one organ    conjoined in the blue tipi    of floating whistles

doubled thunder coming    in my wicked mouth    to eat you and your

grandma    too    Name her! Name her    who bites you harder    little girl!

Will not say    for seconds I am filth    dirty as the damaged apple    I bore

not yours    never yours    that unspeakable sunshine    Turn your head!

Turn your head    and I’ll kindly cut it off    Yes Yes    the best reason    I am

left only    the mother of a great sun    you would go blind and    blinder to look

upon its number and    for finally I am not    of your being    being Queen

of the flat kingdoms what crop your emptiness    I do not admit these    nor

I lied    nor I betrayed    nor I am starving    for you    nor can you make me

never    Will    I disappear

10.

I peel myself

and wherever these rubied

feathers drop, a poppy unfurls

in the graveyard, each head plush

as a stitched lip.

You’re right,

it gets me high, how thin I am, my

love, the substance uncontrolled.

But this molting becomes me,

your naturally-occurring razor,

your baby I.V. Now I am fashioned

the gun so truly fired

I blast like a magic cap through

my own skin. So go on,

throw the bones

to your hairy pack and let them gnaw.

I’m done with the meat. Soon, I’ll be

demolished. I’ll step away free.

at Length

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