Debra Kaufman: The Distance between Mobile and Chicago

                           Half Bride, by Mary Hatch, 2002, oil on canvas, 16” x 16”



The Distance between Mobile and Chicago

Fashions spill from all my closets—
velvet gowns, furred miniskirts,
cashmere sweaters, a full-length sable coat—
fabrics I hope will keep me warm
in this godforsaken climate
he moved us to. I learned brands
by browsing, eavesdropping
at the club, reading Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
So I pay full retail. He can afford it.
In Marshall Field’s mirrors I can pass
as glamorous; they know me
at the best jewelry stores:
we smile the same smile, the one that signals
a significant transaction is at hand.
They don’t know I come from Alabama dirt—
I’ve chiseled my accent so it’s brittle as ice,
though it softens after martinis
or when I call home. My sister’s voice
smooth as sweet potato pie
makes me so lonesome I just have to tell her
what I bought, how much I paid for it.

Debra Kaufman

Review by Tiel Aisha Ansari
This poem deftly evokes unresolved tension between the narrator’s origins and her (her husband’s?) chosen milieu. She describes herself as an eavesdropper and impostor, yet feels compelled to flaunt her wealth to her (perhaps) less fortunate sister. Does this console her, or deepen her isolation?

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