RITA, A RED ROSE, HATES HER ClOTHES (from Disobedience)
by Alice Notley

where I am's a roomful of clothes
finding the right ones to wear.
I don't want to give my concert naked.
Or do I. How naked am I now,
as a poem?


        consists of a flesh-colored garment.
Like the flesh-colored bathing suits movie actresses
wore for nude scenes in the 50's.

"Clothes" consists of dress designs,
fake necklines and outlines
delineated on a flesh-colored garment

Who's ever been naked?

There's too much light in this cavern --
I think it's behind a large eye
What happens if I
walk out through the eye?

Flesh-colored suit with
mathematical equations encircling it

A matching skullcap a map of the brain and
     it's functions:
scientific fashions.

But I know my equations are right!
if I were a particle scientist you'd give me a prize.

Light from the boring "real world" threatens
to soak through the cave eye corrupting my darkness
I back away
I'm naked
and dark.

In the métro, I prefer to the singers
a songless beaten-down man
who haunts the Louis Blanc line
asking people in the métro cars, one by one,
for "une pièce."

This is not the Whitman Intersection.

I see quietly

not walking out through the eye
into the blazing light of the Mystics
mingling with all

I   am   absolutely   not   You.

On no now I'm dressed as Rita the rose
with redpetal cloth bunched up over my breasts
and also down from the waist
leaving my legs bare
the skirt though is
long in the back, I look like Geena Davis
on Academy Awards night
the year of that female buddy movie
which contained no witticisms.

I'm wearing the Rose dress
to a concert
Howlin' Wolf at the Hungry i
I'm going to let another man sing at me...
unless I myself can be
Howlin' Wolf. Or is it Whitman.

can I be welcomed to
the Grand Intersection of You
and sing at the Hungry i?
Not as a humble citoyenne, speck
in the poet's vast I,
but as    the famous I    itself?
A Multitude of Men rush to assure me
you can only approach the cosmic I in all humility.
Like us, they say, so Fucking Back Off.

I am absolutely not you
not even you girls.
No witless movie, genre or mystical.
Fuck off Walt, all of you.

...surrounded by shed snakeskins,
including a small albino one, and a large one with
poison sacs.

That was one dream. Now

sitting in the sun alone
jeans and an old red shirt
The Turtle Mountains, The Old Woman Mountains,
Iron Mountain, The Spirit Mountains
all out there...
fantasy, since I'm in Paris,
but do somehow sit on a rock in the desert
and wonder where the snakes are --
tiniest breeze
in a desert holly bush.

Let's go back into caves
and talk to my willpower Hardwood
he's laughing at a snakejoke
"when is a snake naked
when it's a nake with no S
snake with no hiss..."

Would I want to be a nake, Hardwood?
does Alice Notley want to be a nake

Pub. May 1998 DRC