Caring For Your Gimp

by Henry Shifrin
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, April 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson

Fold your Gimp along his creases. The hemline
created by his smiles. He can beam, an ornament
of sorts, in front of a window for hours.
The passersby may not be happy. See
the pale cheek. But no lip stays straight

when it confronts such an endless smile.
As you fold him, powder the skin a gentle
lavender. Make sure to clean away any chance
for mildew or mold, things that ruin
a complexion and often cause a terrible stench.

Brush the hairs, all the hairs, even those
on his back, straight. Leave the folded man
on a chair beside the door. He will be ready
for a car ride, a flicker of television, a kiss
on the ear. And later you can unfold him and

scrub the skin stretched across his belly
to shine like a just-washed sedan.
In the evening, if you have folded him into
a small square, place him snug among mothballs,
where nothing will bite or nick his skin.

This is witty, of course, and in just those deft ways – using unobvious details – which sustain the joke: “powder the skin a gentle / lavender”, “leave the folded man / on a chair by the door”. The fantasy is inhabited, in other words, rather than being simply an idea schematically explicated. Moreover, the quality of the image-writing is fluent (“scrub the skin stretched across his belly / to shine like a just-washed sedan”), and this is rhythmic, well-articulated writing: see the rhythmic repetition of “Brush the hairs, all the hairs, even those / on his back”. Many entries were more serious and complex than this poem, but they lost out to it through being either unfinished or having a tonal problem (or excessive sincerity or sweetness). Idealism is the greatest of virtues – but belongs beyond the poem itself, I suspect. --Fiona Sampson

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