The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Lee Ann Roripaugh’s “Dandarians”


From part 3 of the poem Annealing

Handle With Care

Cold so cold it makes you feel see-through. Breakable and delicate.
Harbor your crockery of bones in a packing crate full of old socks.

Sun’s cold high beam glaring everywhere—ricocheting off snow,
stretching sky’s dome like a taut blue balloon, sluicing in through
every window. You want to drink it in deep thirsty gulps, the cold of
it numbing the back of your throat and throbbing your temples, the
cold of it an erasing tide against the hot ache in your chest, the cold of
it easing the tight muscular lump of things better left unsaid.

You promise yourself to stop worrying so much about feeling like a
mollusk without a shell. Like an unpeeled grape. Marred by unex-
pected grit. That ungainliness of having been tuned too tightly, like
the E-string on a violin pitched sharp.

Yesterday, slipperiness and flakes sifting anxiously through air.
Something of worth relentlessly ground down in a lapidary shop. But
then a soft plush of snow. Cool goose down comforter drawn up over
everything to cover the trees’ dishabille.

All this clean cold light. You’d like to dive right into its blindingly
icy flashpoint.

This selection comes from Lee Ann Roripaugh’s book Dandarians, available from Milkweed Editions. Purchase your copy here!

Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, Dandarians, was released by Milkweed Editions in September 2014.  Her second volume, Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press), was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series.  The recipient of a 2003 Archibald Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship, she was also named the 2004 winner of the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the 2001 winner of the Frederick Manfred Award for Best Creative Writing awarded by the Western Literature Association, and the 1995 winner of the Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.

Her short stories have been shortlisted as stories of note in the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and two of her essays have been shortlisted as essays of note for the Best American Essays anthology.  Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.  Roripaugh is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.  She is also a faculty mentor for the University of Nebraska low-residency M.F.A. in Writing, and served as a 2012 Kundiman faculty mentor alongside Li-Young Lee and Srikanth Reddy.

Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Booth, The Emerson Review, Harpur Palate, Moon City Review, Stirring, and Whiskey Island, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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