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Carla Sarett: a poem

The Man in the Pink Skirt

Ahead of me, the heap turns

into a young man – he's sprawled on cement

with a shampoo bottle.

He's so new to the gutter, his face is clean.

Sunlight's a danger to my skin. I cross

to walk in the shade

where I find a colder season. This city tricks me like that in April.

Like the announcement of incoming fog,

a tall man approaches. He's on a forced march,

exiled from the Mission District. His halves are opposed.

His upper body is a puritan's: black jacket

and gray shirt. The joyless drabs of San Francisco. But,

below, a pink skirt cascades past his ankles.

The kind of skirt that sells

for a dollar at thrift stores.

A leftover from a dead woman's closet.

My older brother took all my bright

Victorian ruby rings and paste glass necklaces,

along with my crushed velvet scarves.

Such gorgeous androgyny. I'd have given him anything

and he knew it.

But this man's not glamorous.

He wears his skirt like a habit;

he's a fugitive from a failed monastery.

No one wears such pink here except in

the rare parade. Not disco neon, not Cadillac pink,

not the hot pink of downtown drag.

His is the pink of poolside parties and hostess kaftans.

It died with the leather-kingdoms

and the beautiful men.

He is waiting for color to return.

And I see him in my other life.

The young nervous English poet who smelled like cigarettes,

who spoke one night of the Roman ruins in Manchester

and the Byzantine Empresses, Theodora and Irene;

of Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande.

The past was new to me then.

I wonder, for a senseless moment,

if I am seeing the poet or just his faded double.

Many people decline out here in the West,

where no one knows their habits.

They sleep with pigeons and stray cats, they haunt

small ugly hotels

no one wants to restore.

Does he still write of Byzantium's golden icons,

radiant with faith?

At a concert near the War Memorial, four women perform

Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,

with its tear-drenched tangos. In the dark,

no one can see my absurdly bright socks,

how turquoise peeks out above my ankle boots.

I refuse to match, my minor rebellion. In the dark,

no one can see I am weeping.

Oh, everyone's at war with something or other.

Carla Sarett is a poet and essayist based in San Francisco. Her debut poetry collection, She Has Visions, was published by Main Street Rag Press in Fall 2022. Her novels include The Looking Glass and A Closet Feminist. Recent poems appear in Gyroscope, Pithead Chapel, Neologism, Rock Paper Poem and elsewhere. Carla has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.


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