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ISBN: 978-1-62557-924-9
Reviews & Media Review in COLDFRONT
Categories Poetry

Dress Made of Mice

Publication Date: October 2015


The Accidental Conception of the New Century

In basements with a square of shag, support beams, view of the furnace, a corduroy couch; in brake or bush without removing the corset; in the winter of gas-tax, and in the morning there was no one left in the trundle but him; the man whom I thought I had married, but all along it had been a fake; in the back of the limousine with glass unicorns and pink champagne; or in bachelor complexes that landscape with harrow and drag-teeth; window sills piled with pizza rinds, beer bottles like sentries; places I was not supposed to be; inside his cell delivering the tin bowl and rag; his mom out of town playing golf and we have the whole afternoon until the little sister returns from the Turtle Frolick; or our eventual confession of love for each other, the ribbon untied from my throat. “Come here for a minute, Come sit over here$$ patting the buffalo robe, the cold metal bleacher; my head a swirl of snow, hand brushing his trousers, the thought: I just want to be slanted sunlight passed beneath his door; I don’t want to be a highway-bouquet, hair-jewelry kept in a box. I can be tiny and rattling inside as the room grows sloppy; his mouth too big, missing my mouth, my shirt and jeans in the crack between the waterbed and the wall; nothing but straw in my hair and the sound of distant musketry. My thought: he still has his tube socks on, naked and rising from the bed at 4:22pm looking for condoms; “Maybe Dave has some$$ he says, about to walk down the hall to the port where a crowd is breaking bottles on the bow of the newest ship, and I think I will give him this present this once, as if I am the queen and he is the body of enlisted men, me with my powdered wig, wooden tooth, and Foxy Lady belt-I will give him this present if he really wants it so bad, of myself. “Come back here$$ I say, “I can show you how.”


A long time ago, when I was real, I tried on A Dress Made of Mice. It is a dress covered in a thin layer of fur so ancient and alive, slipping into it casts a spell on dear reader, turned my one heart into three: gave me a ghost heart, an animal heart, and kept my own heart true. Erotic, and dangerous, and strange, this dress leaves behind the scent of fossil and fable, “its thousands skins fluttering ghost gray.” When I slipped it off, I swear I heard it say: “Come back from the dead and write one more thing.” Its “teeth left a perfect circle on my thigh.” I don’t know where Messer gets her golden needles, or how she has stitched such a cloak of kindness and weep and tremble. I dare you to find out. I dare you to try it on.

–Sabrina Orah Mark,

About the Author

Sarah Messer

Sarah Messer has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Michigan Council for the Arts and others. She is the author of four books: two poetry collections, Bandit Letters (New Issues, 2001), Dress Made of Mice (Black Lawrence, 2015), a history/memoir Red House (Viking, 2004), and a book of translations, Having Once Paused, Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu (University of Michigan Press, 2015). In 2008-2009, she was a Poetry Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. For many years she taught in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Currently she runs One Pause Poetry (onepausepoetry.org) in Ann Arbor, Michigan and works at White Lotus Farms.

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