Summer 2010 - THE POTOMAC

The Mannequins at Benetton
   Amanda K. Norris

Naked is a logo. Maybe God's,
maybe man's. This morning in March,
maybe it belongs to United Colors of Benetton.
I watch the staff haul the big, rigid dolls
around the empty store, recock their waists,
jam errant limbs into sockets,
and it's like waking up to the set
being struck after having fallen asleep
at a bad play. Their stripped white plastic
bucket hips, their blunt, totem-featured faces,
their absurd cone breasts, their pie-slice clefts,
engineered, sexed no more than wall outlets,
moor me in silence at the display window.
A wide-eyed, museum-quality hush clots up in me,
as if these homogenous sirens wedged
between tiered, particle-board blocks and
cliffs of storefront glass are artifacts
of some unknown sanctuary---the past, the future,
the seasons the now is in between, the places
where stuff exists but I do not. I risk
vertigo as the escalator hauls me up,
rubbernecking to see what new outfits
they will throw over this oldest, most compelling
of songs, and which of these retail aquarium subspecies,
the shoppers, might get trapped in that track-lit, humanoid
coral reef. For even in this tame world of the circular plaza
and the pipette streams of soft muzak, there must always
be bait. And the sirens have kept their centuries-old place,
and it was never their song, but their nude, unaging
figures that sucked the sailors in. Eyes of solid cataracts,
marble buttocks, ankles braceleted by the skulls of men
who, upon closer inspection, realized they had
tried to bite and kiss and tongue stone.
The gaze is a hook, the eye is a fish containing the body.
In the canyon between The Body Shop
and FYE Music, I cannot get free
of what will immanently outlive me.
The escalator plates slide me into place.
Getting off, I bow and enter the food court.
The rain drops percolate on the dome above.
They gather in upswelling bundles, burst and
slide down, smothering the glass with random, mundane
fingers of water. Each a minor model of the Apocalypse.
The natural world, we're told, bodes a similar bursting.
Because we have not got graves for the things we've got,
and the earth, when its time, will take us back without
Or the restive sea will soon saturate,
will overtake us in thrust after thrust, hood after hood
of wine dark or vintage claret.
Either way, the mannequins will shed no blood
nor cry nor ever speak of us
to their vast, faceless inheritance.

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