Mother of Invention
Who first fashioned fishnet stockings,
wearable windows for the high-rise
of the female leg, these panes
that divide thighs into endless peepshows,
elasticated graphs, spanning ankles, knees,
and calves, that chart the unknown like sextants,
in their use of heavenly bodies?
It was neither punk nor prostitute
nor burlesque dancer,
neither derby queen nor stripper.
No cathouse madam or saloon gal,
Vegas waitress or the ones
with satin ears and the bunny tails.
Not the checkout girl, whose legs
do the shop owner’s standing,
or the secretary, too busy with her boss’
running around. Nor could it be
the housekeeper, on her feet so much,
she can no longer stand
up for herself.
Some say it was a woman,
mother to nothing but invention.
She lived by the river alone
and wished to fish for both dinner
and compliments at the same time.
Others credit fishermen for their creation,
perhaps on a day when their bare-breasted
figurehead was indifferent to the waves
that threw themselves at her and
nets caught nothing but water.
I’d like to think it was a mermaid
with no use for the hosiery’s makeshift scales,
one who defines human females
by what’s between their “double-tails,”
sees legs as but a means to move it
from man to man. She knows
too well that a kiss comes
from the same place as a curse,
that we also piss from the place
where we love.
Artifact of unacknowledged ingenuity,
these stockings, whose inventor remains
a mystery, or if nothing else, a painful reminder
of the ocean’s glass ceiling.
The Butcher Coat
His white coat is Polyblend peak is summit stiff is snowstorm
is ice expanding asphalt in the pothole of memory, is still
is blizzard brocade, is crocheted, is crystal counted cross stitch
needling the night sky
is kiss goodbye in a buried bedroom bunker
is powder is flake is goodnight in a paper plate kitchen
is the crunch-brunch-lunching of Styrofoam
is steel-toed punch
through crusts of snow
is boot salt-grayed like Ash Wednesday come early
is glacier is Great Lake is window open to flurry is
slipper is snowshoe is sled is iceberg bearing me
on its back, hardpacked and squalling
on the waves, is me shrinking in his coat
in a whiteout is only the lighthouse
that sees my collision is me
in a white coat on the water
is father is floodlight is breakwall breached by waves.
Cindy King’s work has appeared in in Callaloo, North American Review, African American Review, American Literary Review, jubilat, Ruminate, Cortland Review, River Styx, TriQuarterly, Cimarron, Black Warrior, Barrow Street, The Pinch and elsewhere. She has received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Agha Shahid Ali scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Currently she lives in Utah, where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Dixie State University and editor of Route 7 Review.