by Alice Bolin
Rihanna on a rooftop overlooking downtown Los Angeles.
Blue washes dusty to baby above the city,
white sunlight smearing yellow air, static like the radio.
The day is a tarp clothing the city.
The pink is unbelievable. How it falls and creases
fast as wire, plush as skin.
The silk in weak museum air you can tell
is cool to the touch. The hood is luxe and comfy,
the whole cape shaping the body to a capsule
surrounding the drama of the muff.
It is overstuffed pink silk, white fur, simple yet gratuitous.
It is retro in a way that is not camp, not cute,
downtown Los Angeles an unholy mosaic of
Midwest dead-end downtowns.
Only pockets of LA can perform LA,
lights bending around the freeway,
tired city in aluminum corset.
Rihanna is perfect in brown crystal eyeshadow,
brown lipgloss, one eye staring
from behind the platinum wig. Carelessly placed, carelessly teased —
she doesn’t care if it looks like her hair or even her wig.
Pink is my favorite color.
Picture a Norwegian noblewoman with head down,
surrendered to the muff in her hands, retreating from
the dinner party in her midwinter disgust.
The gown is shaggy sequin, perfume pink.
It holds Rihanna but doesn’t cling,
faithful to the shape of a dress, not the shape of a woman.
It really feels like she found these clothes.
Her nakedness shines through them
like a word, covered but barely disguised,
That’s what I don’t get — how the cape is from 1780
when it is art deco draping and monochrome.
I can see the cape and muff with leather pants —
reference for “princess,” reference for “butch,”
the standard of modern sartorial cleverness.
In short, it appeals to my appetites and my confusion, my gut.
Without the petticoats, wool winter gown trailing
the noblewoman like a cloud of weather,
the sweetheart bodice, buttered pin curls,
all we have is faceless museum backdrop,
black stand, faceless mannequin face, pink, silk, fur, plush, cut —
Rihanna looks good in everything,
looks appropriate even, but she doesn’t play a part,
she never ever disappears. It’s a talent
how she makes the freshest clothes
look shamefaced and wrong —
witness love born from fashion.
It is so improbably day.
Where is the sorry nightclub girl and where the night
this little number slunk out of? Whose clothes did you steal
Rihanna and how did you end up here?
The cape speaks as curve and opening,
the impossible texture of a bronze eyelid, food that is sexy
because it looks like something else.
The slouchy flamboyance we should aspire to in cold weather.
The backwards kink of a woman dressed up like a bedspread.
Alice Bolin is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her on twitter @alicebolin.