Garrison Keillor Reads Jane Shore’s Poem “Shopping Urban”

Yesterday’s The Writer’s Almanac on NPR featured a reading of one of Jane Shore’s poems, “Shopping Urban.” Professor Shore teaches poetry writing here in the English Department. Her widely acclaimed book A Yes-or-No Answer was published last spring.

“Shopping Urban” is from that volume. Many readers of this blog heard Jane read the poem at Politics and Prose last April, when she talked about the shopping incident in Georgetown behind the piece. Garrison Keillor read the words rather differently, with a sarcasm that I’m not sure Jane can actually carry off herself: you can listen to Keillor reading the poem here.

Jane also wrote me yesterday that the very same daughter who is featured in “Shopping Urban” was peppersprayed yesterday at a Karl Rove protest. They grow up so fast, these kids…

For your reading pleasure, here is Jane Shore’s wonderful poem “Shopping Urban”:

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don’t want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There’s not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We’re human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton’s a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls’ armloads of clothes.
What if she’s missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she’s a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in ’69
and the purple wash ‘n’ wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.

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