The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Call Her by Her Name” by Bianca Spriggs



No one remembers your feet.
I cannot let you be buried
in ashy ankles and flecked paint.

Never could figure out why you liked
your polish in shades of bruise:
eggplant, navy, hunter green.

You so hated people touching your toes,
hated anyone else’s coming near you.
I balance on the wheeled stool—get to work

on your left one first, lifting your patent black flat
and rolling down the sheer dress sock, slow—slow.
Your heel feels too light and I half expect

you to wake up, yank it away complaining
how your sole is ticklish—you don’t.
So I get the right one ready too. Patent flat off.

Sheer sock off. Your toes are a mess.
What is left of shade that might have once
been mocha, mottles your toenails.

I pull the remover and cotton balls from my purse
and get to rubbing away the polish one toe at a time.
Your ankles, smooth, dry; the flesh—cracked.

I have a vial of our mother’s blessed oil left
to rub into them. And I do—seal the rifts
in your skin with olive oil and gold flakes,

myrrh and her prayers. It is too quiet, too cold.
I imagine if it was just us, really us, and not Death
too, there would be music—I start singing

but the only song that comes to mind is by Frankie Valli
and I hope you’re somewhere laughing at me,
picking up the chorus I’ve dropped all over the floor.

When you are clean, I pull out a platinum
polish called, mithril. You were always
a little bit razor blade, a little bit shooting star.

The polish shines like nothing could chip it,
not a jackhammer, not some hero’s mythic blade.
I finish the first and begin a second coat,

getting into it now, the back and forth
of the little brush coloring in your nail; I forget
that your skin feels like the outside of an ice cooler.

And this is my last memory of us: me, you,
Frankie Valli, and your bony, yella’, size-eleven feet—
I lean forward and begin to blow.

This selection comes from Bianca Spriggs’ poetry collection Call Her by Her Name, available now from Northwestern University Press. Purchase your copy here.

Bianca Spriggs is an award-winning poet and multidisciplinary artist from Lexington, Kentucky, The author of four collections of poetry, most recently, Call Her by Her Name (Northwestern University Press) and the forthcoming The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor (Argos Books). She is the managing editor for pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and poetry editor for Apex Magazine. You can learn more about her work here:

Staci R. Schoenfeld is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota, assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review, and an assistant editor at Sundress Publications. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Mid-American Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Room Magazine, fiction in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and non-fiction in The Manifest Station.

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