THE RED DRESS by Myra Schneider … a poetry reading

Video posted to YouTube by SpokenVerse.

My first reaction is: I want it,
can’t wait to squeeze into
a scarlet sheath that promises
breasts round as russet apples,
a waist pinched to a pencil,
hips that know the whole dictionary
of swaying, can’t wait
to saunter down an August street
with every eye upon me.

But the moment I’m zipped in
I can’t breathe and the fabric
hugging my stomach without mercy
pronounces me a frump.
Besides, in the internet café,
where you can phone Tangiers
or Thailand for almost nothing
fourteen pairs of eyes
are absorbed by screens.
No one whistles when I smile
at boxes of tired mangoes
and seedy broccoli heads
outside the Greek superstore.

By now I’m in a fever to undo
the garment and pull it off.
And for all its flaws, for all
that it only boasts one breast,
I’m overjoyed to re-possess
my body. I remember I hate
holding in and shutting away.
What I want is a dress easy
as a plump plum oozing
juice, as a warm afternoon
in late October creeping
its ambers and cinnamons into
leaves, a dress that reassures
there’s no need to pretend,
a dress that’s as capacious
as generosity, a dress that willingly
unbuttons and whispers in the ear:
be alive every minute of your life.

The Red Dress from Circling the Core by Myra Schneider, 2008

I know that there are a number of women who read this blog who have or are in remission from cancer, including breast cancer. Also there a few who are the caretakers of someone with cancer. Mulling on that today while I acted as scribe and moral support for a friend visiting her primary care physician, I decided that Ms. Schneider would be the next in my periodic and informal sharing of favorite poets. Ms. Schneider’s first poetry collection was published in 1984. In 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Writing for her – as for many – was a part of the healing process. She journaled two weeks after diagnosis:

I have to hang onto the thought of friends and the relatives and friends of people I know who have survived for years and years after breast cancer. I owe it to myself to manage my panic and to make this a life experience not a death experience, to concentrate on possibilities, to grab every moment of life I can, to use what has happened for writing, to include the awfulnesses but also the plusses. I mustn’t forget the moments of joy: the sun lying in swathes on the grass, the sharp clean cut of the air, the disc of the sun on water. I must keep the words that came into my head about the snowdrops I saw in a garden when we walked to the shops a couple of hours ago. I think it’s the starting point of a poem. MORE

An accessible poet, Ms. Schneider has authored several poetry collections, young adult fiction, and books on writing: Writing for Self Discovery and Writing My Way Through Cancer. The later describes her journey from diagnosis to recovery and encompasses various treatments and their effects, including mastectomy. She provides practical suggestions for using writing in recovery and healing.

This post:

IN MEMORY OF MOM and GIGI EVANS, MARY, PARVATHI, and DEBORAH.

and

DEDICATED TO E, L, A, R, and B.

With love and in solidarity …

32 thoughts on “THE RED DRESS by Myra Schneider … a poetry reading

  1. Thank you for this post, Jamie. I love the poem, and the attitude behind it!

    I passed the links to Kyra Schneider’s piece on to my daughter Lisa, who is a breast cancer survivor. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33 while pregnant. Since then she has had two mastectomies, an oophorectomy (ovaries removed), chemo, radiation, and reconstruction. And oh, yeah, she had her third child, Jack, who is now 4 1/2 years old.

    I’ve written about Lisa, and told her story here if you are interested. There are three posts. Lisa’s comments on the posts are wonderful. (On “They Walk,” she commented several times with updates.)

    Like

  2. Hit me with a big rock.

    The poem was fine but his reading killed it. He put no life into it. Dead people are not writing poem so why do so many people read them like their dead.

    So yes I liked the poem.

    I’m standing here waiting for the rocks.

    Like

    1. Yes! I agree. I think this style of reading is a thing of the past. However, spokenword, does a nice job with the visuals and they put up poems that no one else is doing. Also, I think you might agree that this particular poem be better recited by a woman??!!

      Happy Wednesday, Ellis!

      Like

      1. Yes, at least a woman would understand what is playing out in her mind. The feel of the dress, not saying a man could not do it, just a woman would have done better.

        Like

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