'Stairway' by Jim Davis-Rosenthal


cruisin' j. crew
by Samantha Coerbell



i know this girl
i see her every second monday
pretty, but an odd sod, she spends all her time on the beach
with her hand on a tree
a foot on her knee
looks rather uncomfortable, that twist she's in
but she's smiling
i have books to read and papers to write
but she smiles at me off the pages of this
pile of catalogues

she's sporty in the white shorts
god, those are cute
only $56 dollars
wow, she really looks good in the navy
sits well with her coloring
should sit well with mine
'cause i want to look cute, too
i want to buy into it all
i want to wrap myself in the jade sarong on pg. 24
that eggplant halter looks great on her
on sale-- great-- down from $84
to $69
a deal really
i'll take it, one of those and one of those and the bikini
if she can wear it i can, too.


Mom, Hal, and I went to T&T
we girls three ain't seen family in nearly six years
is all
"ya yankee gal now..."
"what's them t'ing in she hair..."
"look, look, she knock kneed, shun-a-foot,
buck-toothed, and near bald..."
i was nine
this was my family. the people who love me.


what a pretty girl
what a pretty girl in a pretty dress
what a pretty girl with a pretty smile
what a pretty girl with such pretty hair
what a "smart" girl
...if you can't say something nice...
i was five.


what a pretty girl
what a pretty girl in a pretty dress
only $74
i need the medium i think
i wear a medium because i'm not
pre-pubescent slim
(i must remind myself)
i am not fat
what a pretty girl with a pretty smile
vapid, but, pretty pretty
what a pretty girl
with such a shapely she shape and slim
waist and face are but this big
i'll buy this thing here, too
whatever it is


i shell out my AMEX number
in the midnight hours
while i am too weak to think straight
i look at her and at myself in the mirror
life's this glossy thing
like the pages here
photographic re/presentations of reality

such a pretty little thing but she really should
flip to pg. 103
and put on a sweater
it's too cold to be selling bikinis


i can't exactly say where all this flesh came from
they tell you your bones grew in your sleep
but where do thighs come from
and that gunk that piles around your natural waist
how come eclairs can find your butt
but not your boobs?


my closet is major schizo
i got cocktail "Breakfast at Tiffany's" dresses i bought
in this super nostalgia phase i hit at 15
funny thing is i wasn't too fat to wear them
i was too shy
i got slink baby doll dresses that cling
and when i wear them my backside is booming
my hips are the place to be
my thighs sit 'neath the fabric and try to be taut
i guess i look all right
but, i'm usually too self-conscious to pull it off
twist and stare tug and hide
exhale, damn it

i've also all this got men's wear
i'm usually dressed like a potato sac
so you can't really tell what's on my body
if there is a body in here somewhere
but who cares
i'll be smart
not beautiful


the day the box arrives is travesty
i'm breaking up with my boyfriend
i'm just too scared to tell him
the guy i like wants me to set him up
with my girlfriend, and i do
my professor has cut my deadline on my final paper
my parents are on my case about being out all hours
my boss is a twist-lipped heifer
my orthodontist is tsktsking 'cause i don't wear my retainer
everyone is biting at me
my UPS guy, however, understands
i need sunny beaches
i need to stand with my hand on a tree
a foot on my knee
singing, "...i feel pretty..." singing the god damn song until i mean it


i land in T&T
i'm a girl just me
three weeks and man i got plans
i ain't never going back
hell, i got enough shit packed
even snuck in my tattered jeans
i'm stylin'
i'm staying
this is "home"
when i land on long circular rd.
everybody rush out
like cockroach
the boys to see the yankee gal
with the tattered backside
the girls to stuups my permed hair
but, that's nothing to me,
because what rings clearer than any other sensation
is my aunt's voice
thick trini accent howling with laughter
"oh gosh, look look she put on sides..."
her face is spinning with glee
cackling and pointing at my brand new hips
i look down and they just start to spread and spread
the rest of me stays the same
so, i'm a pear shape
when i walk i seem to waddle
each hill is for swinging them so and so
i'm not a little girl anymore
i'm a woman
i was twelve


the box takes me to a sunny beach
i'm the only girl on the rickety ship's crew
Polynesian princess
with a sweater in case it gets cold


i look at the next catalogue
before i even rip the plastic from my new self image
she's still keeping that tree from falling
she's got herself a jumper
she's in workout gear
and has a very pretty dress to wear
(it's a nice color on her
should be a nice color on me)
(good to see a sister with a job)
and on sale


in the shower i tend to wash my breasts first
and last
i hope the extra attention will encourage them
to feel loved
i touch myself with the intention that this is all
but i like the smush of my belly
when it's soapy
and running my hands over my hips and thighs over and over
until they are clean
though they weren't dirty
is exciting
when no one's looking
i love my body


my boyfriend calls when i'm in the shower
he's a nag
my girlfriend calls to tell me the guy i like is really cute
and a great kisser
my mom pokes her head in to tell me my room is a mess
i think i'm going to lose my job
and my AMEX bill is an extravaganza
my new "trés femme" self image is in a box
in the corner and i'm too tired look at it
so i stare at the picture some more
she's such a pretty girl
so sweet and slim
and if she looks good in these clothes
will i?


i start safe
the sweater fits
nice color
doesn't match a thing in my closet that i really wear
except my dungarees
yeah, trés femme
the shorts fit
i'm the only girl in my room's crew
and all i feel is exposed
god, are those my thighs
what is all that gunk inside
when i wrap the sarong
i can't seem to knot it just right
somehow my left hip keeps jutting out
i look at the photo
tie it to the right
we're all pretty symmetrical
and i fall out the other side as wellv and i think
what am i thinking
i'm not built for standing still and being beautiful
i'm smart
i'm built for speed
i'm made in fury
forged with aggravation
this mortal coil is a menace
takes too much maintenance
flesh is not flat and glossy
and all this comes rushing to me
in a $187 dollar lesson


i know this girl
she comes to me every second monday
and lies
with her pretty little smile
and her soft skinned poses
teeny face and illusive waist
she lies
i put on everything she wears, but,
i'm some kind of caricature of her
her as ideal woman
her as only black woman fit to wear j.crew
"girl, them jeans were not cut for you..."
"them models ain't got no ass..."
"she built like a 12 yr old..."
"you just settling into your body..."
"we all spreading..."
"ain't a stair master in the world to peel this away..."
the hip is a bone
to make the ideal curvature
you either have to fill it in
or carve it down

she's standing on the beach with her hand on a tree
her foot on her knee, lying about what you can be
for only $58 dollars (+8.25% sales tax+shippin'n'handlin')
flat and glossy and obviously happy because she's always smiling.




Text © 1999 by Samantha Coerbell

Forward to Samantha Coerbell's The Sounds Are Louder On the Other Side

Original Graphic, "Stairway," © 1999 by Jim Davis- Rosenthal

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