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The Love Song of J. Alfred Proofreader

February 2, 2012 8 comments

by Donna Levine Gershon

(With apologies to T.S. Eliot)

“What do I think about the way most people dress? Most people are not something one thinks about.”—Diana Vreeland

Let us go then, you and I,
To our desks at Vogue against the sky.
On the thirteenth floor you caption clothes:
Go-the-distance cotton
Punctuated with sexy sheer hose.
I insist on commas
And tell you what you say;
I am the Copy Production Chief by night and by day.

At Vogue the women come and go
Talking of Giorgio di Sant’Angelo.

For you there will be time
For a hundred visions and revisions
For you are not the one
To wait until midnight for the new repro
To come down from being typeset.
Indeed there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
You’ll duck into the beauty closet
For all the Bobbi Brown Essentials
You can apply.
And as you run through my office
On your way to dinner you’ll say,
“Look at this cute little passageway!”
So how should I presume?

At Vogue the women come and go
Talking of Giorgio di Sant’Angelo.

I have known the eyes already, known them all:—
At the elevator,
Locking on my Chanel knockoff,
My Snickers bar,
My Duane Reade discount drugstore bag,
Sprawling on a pin
They know I got from the giveaway bin.

Was it worthwhile,
Throwing off my shawl,
Turning toward the writers to say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what you meant, at all”?
They thought me
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse.
They just wanted to dish about
Johnny Depp on the loose.

I grow old…I grow old…
But my friends are all at magazines that could fold.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I see a young fashion assistant reach,
But then decline—
“Too much sugar,”
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

We have lingered in the hallways at Vogue
By beauties so afraid of lines they never frown
Till Vanity Fair calls, and we go to work for Tina Brown.


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Donna Levine Gershon’s poetry has appeared in storySouth, Literary Mama, and Kakalak 2007: Anthology of Carolina Poets, among other publications. She was first runner-up for the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Initiative’s Single Poem Contest. She now lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where she works as a freelance editor.

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