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


Hola, Hola

I misread my horoscope this morning. What I thought it said: “The
leaves on the permission tree outside your door are growing so fast . . .”

So let me ask you: Do you have a permission tree? Is it blooming? Do
the pale green twigs and buds make a fragrant spring tea? If I agree
to read the swirl of tea leaves cast across the bottom of your cup, what
will happen next?

How to ripen permission fruit: Place in a brown paper bag. Let them
soften in the dry heat of the attic stairs. Nip the tomato-colored skin
with your teeth and peel it easily away with your fingers. Slip the
warm flesh into your mouth.

Paradigmatic Structure:

The permission tree is distinct from other arboreal species by its yes-
shaped leaves, ability to decode the rhetorical gestures of the wind,
and penchant for attracting brightly-colored lichen.

Syntagmatic Structure:

The permission tree is one of several mythological trees existing in
the insufficiently-caffeinated minds of people with wild eyes and
disheveled hair. It is ontologically suspect, and, like other ciphers of
similar taxonomy, should (probably) be treated with caution. If one
should happen to come across this tree in passing, one should (prob-
ably) just ignore it and keep walking through it, even though cool
leaves brush the hot lump that quietly glows like a molten coal in
your sternum. Never mind the lump. It is only spectral.

                           Dónde está?

                          Approach: Ripe persimmons

                          Avoid: Disguise them in a brown paper bag

                          Approach: Ripe permissions

                          Avoid: Hide them in a brown paper bag

                          (Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt . . .)

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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