A Brief History of Clothes

He dressed us up at first in glory rags, which is to say not
a stitch, but soon the dress code went to hell.

God sewed outfits for our privates, not for his. He was
ashamed at how imperfect were the members of the human
race.

He said to Moses, Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar,
that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon
. The Levites wore no
underwear, unlike the uptight other tribes.

My uniform in Little League said Corrigan’s Funeral Home
on the back. Talk about a safe prophecy of the final score.

Joseph had a coat of many colors—The Old Man Likes Me Better
stenciled on back—which caused family strife. When
Potiphar’s wife came on to him, he lost his shirt.

King David stripped down to briefs to celebrate Yahweh’s
arrival in Jerusalem. Michal tore her gown when she saw
hubby’s regal striptease, happy feet, family jewels. Every secret
of state, he revealed. How glorious was the king of Israel today, who
uncovered himself in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants
, she
said, fists on hips. She never wore maternity clothes,
a punishment in this men’s wear fashion book worse than
being turned to salt.

Jesus was swaddled in the manger, on the cross, in the tomb,
his fashions inspiring raves on runways of major cities. Still
today lots are cast.

The Sisters of Mercy wore wimples that flapped like startled
pigeons at any insurrection in the classroom, swirls of cloth,
high-heeled stomp. Ecstatic brides and widows, seamstresses
hired to throw wet blankets on fires of puberty, they brought
teen goddesses to their knees to measure rolled skirts. It’s hard
to keep your mind on heaven, I learned at Ascension of Our
Lord School, if it lies upskirt of where you kneel.

Dressed to kill, JonBenet played the little tramp in heels,
swiveling hips she didn’t have, licking lethal lipstick, her final
accessory a garrote. In high school we learn to dress. Jesuits
said neat businessman’s haircuts, ties. The swish of the skirts they
wore and chafe of Roman collar was cross-dressing discipline,
counter-reformation.

Being out of uniform was the abomination of desolation.

Columbine is an herb garbed in flowers that resemble doves.
Another costume drama. Matrix trench coats hid the bodies
of the shooters from victims whose nations were J. Crew, Old
Navy, Abercrombie and Fitch.

You can be fitted in cement for wearing colors of another
tribe. The enemy is garbed in difference. Bodies of our
children are beautiful enough, in life and death, to make us
cry, school clothes we bought just weeks ago smeared in red,
ruined, precious flesh blossoming with holes.

About David Citino:
David Citino is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, most recently The News and Other Poems (University of Notre Dame Press) and The Book of Appassionata: Collected Poems and The Invention of Secrecy (both from Ohio State University Press). Paperwork (Kent State University Press), a collection of essays, was published in 2004. He is contributing editor of The Eye of Poetry: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (Oxford), and teaches at Ohio State, where he is Poet Laureate of the University.