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Sartorial Advice and other poems

Sartorial Advice and other poems
Five poems by Scott Edward Anderson, author of Fallow Field and Walks in Nature’s Empire, who has been a Concordia Fellow at the Millay Colony for the Arts, under World Poetry/Prose Portfolio curated by Sudeep Sen


Sartorial Advice


A stitch in time saves $9.50, but only if you skip the tailor.
Although some say a man is made by nine tailors; 
others insist it’s the clothes that make the man.
Either way, you should definitely cut your coat 
to suit your cloth or, rather, cut your cloth to suit 
your coat or — if truth be told — cut your coat-cloth 
to the proper dimensions of your suit, 
for which a good tailor, if not nine, comes in handy. 
(Believe me, I’ve got a nice bespoke suit made for me 
by Martin Greenfield and it suits me just fine.)

Remember that handsome is as handsome does.
So don’t wash your dirty linen in public.
Although hanging it out to dry is an option, 
especially if you want to save on electricity 
or you’re concerned about global warming. 
Finally, if the shoe fits, wear it, and if it is made of fine 
Italian leather, you’ll put your best foot forward every time.
I mean, just because the cobbler always wears the worst shoes 
and his son goes barefoot, it doesn’t mean you should.


Lost Art


So rare these days to find 
a firm handshake, one with purpose
and power, yet grace and graciousness.
Hand coming at you like a plank,
straight, forward-thinking, un-
self-conscious. You feel it
before you touch: this person means
business, takes you seriously,
acknowledges your presence
and value in the world. What used
to be called Respect.
The opposite is notable too:
flabby fish glad-handed over to you 
by a false-friend or the half-shake 
with its wimpy wink,
hand not fully extended or open
resulting in a missed opportunity,
like a diver hitting the pool just off-
center, not being able to read the man
behind the hand. Sometimes it’s not
about the feel of the handshake,
rather what isn’t felt — an absence
that shouts, “Disingenuous!”
At best or at least, feigned indifference.
Perhaps that’s why, of all the lost arts,
handwritten letters, well-tied ties,
civil discourse, decent air travel,
moderate Republicanism,
I miss the handshake most.
And why, watching a buffoon
performing the clean and jerk
as a greeting to every head of state
and cabinet nominee, I turn 
to another lost art and make myself
a proper gin martini:
bone dry, very, very cold,
three olives, shaken not stirred. 



Philtrum


What do you call
that space between nose and upper lip?
I can never remember.
You know the one: it provides pause
in a mustache, sluice for a runny nose,
u-shaped divot for a kissable upper lip,
point of departure for two sides of a smile.
The name of it always slips my mind.
Is it fulcrum, spatula, petula?
Any of those would suit.
On some faces it’s barely there,
not even a hint. On others, 
it's a crowning figure, 
providing such strong definition
to the mouth as to render significance.
A dimple in some or fat protuberance,
even a deep groove, as if sculpted.
So much variation in the human face.
Is it where facial tics go to rest
or where they begin?
Vestigial medial cleft, useless
to us now or seemingly so.
A term of endearment should suffice
or something Latinate, evoking
historic myth — secula, oridissey, phatama.
No matter, it’s there, 
perhaps unnamed,
unnameable, even, 
or just so ordinary as to go
unnoticed, most of the time.


Firehorse


Three summers he tried to break that horse
longeing her, riding her bareback, 
unsaddled and unbridled, 
even tried gentling her.
But she just couldn’t stop breaking
the rules of their engagement,
couldn’t stem the fire of impulse
within her. “Firehorse,” he called her,
and kept at her, pulling at her fiery mane,
strapping her with his crop,
even tried biting the back of her neck,
as is said was done by Spanish horsemen.
Still she struggled against the reins,
until he nearly gave up, set her free,
or gave her up to ride another —

Then one day, without sign
or symbol, in a distinct moment
he could feel a change in her movement.
It was palpable. She stopped
in her step, yielding to him,
but not giving up her fire within, 
impulse becoming intention.
As if she now understood
his rules were meant not
to control her, but rather
to open her to possibility,
where horse and rider become one.

Blended Families


When families are blended
it’s not like a smoothie, 
where all the ingredients
combine to make a new flavor.
In the multi-flavored family, 
each flavor remains unique, 
each name remains its own.

There is joy in blending families, 
but sometimes tears, too.
You don’t deny the one for
the other, you are more
together, yet equal apart.
You are “and” rather than “or.”
There is more of you —

So praise our blended family, 
let it bring abundance into all our lives.
Let there be strength in our numbers, 
as there are now more shoulders
to lean on, more hands to lend, 
more hearts to be kept in, 
more love to share in its union and bond.

And let each of us
make the best that is all of us
shine more brightly, now, together.

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