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Self-Portrait as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Others

Jane Yeh

I smooth down my skirt, toss my hair. My buckles rattle with each step

Like little bayonets. They’re called knife pleats for a reason.


The blue wool of a Jaeger dress is better than twenty dinners with an idiot.

Bring me the head of Cristóbal Balenciaga! It’s a hoot


To sneak cigarettes in some Boston dive, pretend I’m a divorcée.

The curl in a bouffant will always betray you. What’s the point


Of living like a cartoon nun when you can pose for the camera

In a shantung sheath? My hair is dark as a drawn-on eyebrow.


I lay my fingers on the plate like a fan. I’ve been waiting all my life

To be noticed, crossing and uncrossing my legs. (How the high heel


Of summer presses at our throats.) It’s a blast to guzzle 

Martinis with the ‘girls’, pretend I’m thin as a polyester dress.


A string of pearls round my neck like an artificial promise:

The harsh taste of gin like an unrequited laugh.

Commissioned by the National Poetry Library and the Centre for New and International Writing at the University of Liverpool, for the ‘Poets in Vogue’ exhibition, 2023.

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