The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Girl Who Talked to Paintings by Shannon K. Winston

This selection, chosen by guest editor Amber Alexander, is from The Girl Who Talked to Paintings by Shannon K. Winston, released by Glass Lyre Press in 2021.

Flower Girl

            John Singer Sargent, Polly Barnard,
            Study for “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”
After the ceremony our father whisked us away,
dropped us off in a parking lot on the side of the highway
before returning to the reception.

We waited (seconds? minutes?
hours?) for our mother to pick us up.
Heat lightning ripped through the sky

as semis whirred past us,
stirring up plastic bags and cigarette butts
at our feet. Standing perfectly still,

we resembled old dolls
stowed away, brushed seamlessly
into my father’s past.

Our best thrift store dresses
clung to our stomachs. Sweat curved into
crescent moons under our arms,

where threads frayed.
How we had stepped down the aisle
just hours before with white lilies.

We had scattered them slowly, feeling
each petal slip through our fingertips, as if
we were offering up a small part of ourselves.

Years later, in the Tate Museum,
I gazed at Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
and suddenly recalled that night.

How I wished I had leaned over
and whispered to my sister: Close your eyes,
you be Lily, I’ll be Rose.

If only we’d had our own
makeshift lanterns into which we could
have thrown bottle caps,

gum wrappers, and glass.
We would have watched it all smolder.
We would have transformed

the parking lot into our own garden
where cut flowers find new roots
and girls like us are given a second chance.

Shannon K. Winston’s book, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings (Glass Lyre Press), was published in 2021. Her individual poems have appeared in BrackenCider Press ReviewOn the SeawallRHINO Poetry, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and lives in Bloomington, IN.

Amber Alexander, who publishes creative work as e. holloway, is a poet based in Ohio. They currently work in higher education and as an Assistant Editor for Best Of The Net within Sundress Publications. Alexander is a former Editorial Intern for Sundress Publications, former Editorial Board Member for Cornfield Review, and was a Sundress Academy for The Arts Writing Resident in 2023. Their work has been published by Cornfield Review and earned multiple awards during undergrad at The Ohio State University.

Latest posts by sundresspublications (see all)

Leave a Reply