The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ladies’ Abecedary by Arden Levine

This selection, chosen by Guest Leslie Rzeznik, is from Ladies' Abecedary by Arden Levine, released by Small Harbor Publishing in 2021.


held, in beautiful unadorned hands,
a hardcover book.
She read it, regarded the room,
reflected. Patient.

The hardcover book
sat closed and attentive
reflected her, patient,
as he explained to her the procedure.

Sitting close and attentive,
the light above washed her pale
as he explained the procedure
and what it would be like after.

The light above washed her pale;
her hair fell around her face.
And what would it be like, after?
She rested the book on its spine.

Her hair fell around her face
as she removed her clothes;
she rested the book on its spine
creased and split to center.

She removed her clothes
and became part of the table.
Spine creased, she split to center,
forefingers touching like a circuit.

Once her spine was part of the table
he inserted rods in her to open her.
Her fingers, touching like a circuit,
resembled the thin metal rods.

As he inserted rods in her to open her
she started to bleed. A machine
with a sound resembling thin metal rods
clattered like coarse wind chimes.

She started to bleed into the machine,
which extracted a condition from her,
and a clatter like coarse wind chimes
sounded in her body cavity. Emptied,

her face a confusion of threads,
extracted from the table, a conditional object,
emptied of sound, her body an aching cavity,
she arose. She arranged her limbs.

She held herself, beautiful and unadorned.
Someone had closed the book, her page was lost.
He had left, the walls were quiet.
She read the textured walls, regarded the room.

“E” was previously published in SWWIM as “Pantoum [Procedure]”

Arden Levine’s debut chapbook, Ladies’ Abecedary (Harbor Editions, 2021), was included in CLMP’s 2022 Reading List for Women’s History Month. Her poems and other writing have appeared in American Life in Poetry (selected by Ted Kooser), Barrow StreetHarvard ReviewThe Missouri Review’s Poem-of-the-Week, Poetry Society of America’s Song Cycle series, WNYC’s Radiolab, and elsewhere. Arden is a reviews writer for Green Linden Press, a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, and a New York City municipal employee; her daily work focuses on housing affordability, homelessness prevention, and equitable community development.

Leslie Rzeznik lives in southeast Michigan. She earned her BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and won The Academy of American Poets prize in 2013. Her work has appeared in AlyssBone BouquetSling Magazine, Willawaw Journal, and Bear River Review.


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