Black Tie Ball

And he wore my father’s shirt and shoes
And I my mother’s dress.

His shirt sleeves were pulled back from fingertips
(which were always marked by the marks of the mandolin strings
that marked his starving artist life
and his unsuitedness for exquisite suits)
Pulled back by coiled brass armbands
that I thought looked flash, though pinched his biceps pink.
My father a giant of a man,
and though his feet quite understated,
it took padding for them to hold to the heels of an under-six-foot man,
Which did not lend to immaculate dancing
But the shining two thousand and fifteen pennies
wedged in the penny loafer gap
Glinted. We were much later told
It was vulgar to place the penny in both.
His bow tie hung to the left and it belonged to my brother.
The suit was his own, new-bought. Midnight blue and glossy and brimming
with the little-boy now grown, who wished to be James Bond
-A dinner jacket not a tuxedo
 my mother corrected me-
And more expensive than he could afford, though not expensive either.
Sold to us by a man in the department store
menswear basement,
Who aimed his questions at me and mourned the decline of sartorialism.
And outside the dressing room I sat on a faux leather chair,
In my love’s woollen jumper and my mum’s shabby trainers,
Inelegant waiting to make my judgement.

And I was hot in the black thickly silk dress, now mine.
My hair in rigid puffs of nineteen-fifties-style hairsprayed whirl,
Which I’d paid much too much money for
And which made me look like
my grandmother
but in a good way
and I’m sure she’d ‘ve been proud, had she lived to see the day.
And I beamed- this was my time to shine in a black tie dress.
My shape and skin were never designed for beach-side bikinis, short shorts and sunrays.
Eye liner was excessive in its new learned flicks
Too narrow and too high.
And the low high heels
nonetheless rendered me
four inches taller than my true love,
Though his masculinity,
trussed in a my brother’s naval officer’s cummerbund,
And I wore a pair of maternal cream pearls
although not trusted to make an outing
with the first communion string.
And my guilty affectation of elbow length
white satin gloves were sticky
in the heat of a June that wasn’t May.
And my eyes were hot too and stung in the air of oncoming dawn
having spent too much of the previous day
crying academic tears,
And I wore glasses new-bought for new-strained
academic eyes,
Glasses too big,
chosen for fashion not for their ability
not to slip to the ground
when a five a.m. head lolls against the shoulder
padded shoulder of a gallant man.

The anticlimax of beautiful young people all night in lights with music and comedy and magic tricks,
novel food and drinks that don’t stop.
And of not being Elizabeth Bennet and having already seen your
Mr Darcy in his grey underwear frilly nightshirt.
And of not being the grownups we stole our finery from
Who wear them wishing they were young.
Though always feeling we had always had the class for this game.
Though always old new begged borrowed blue.


Black Tie Ball by Freya Isabella.