Head of a rural library, he looked the part:
gray hair shaved to bristles, a genial smile,
soft-spoken and gentle except when pushed to the sticking point,
then stern, forceful, putting forth a rational, objective defense
of either idea or person–he’s the staunch, reliable,
faithful, and open-minded man that so many women
secretly admire. He’ll wait in a dress shop, pondering,
careful not to stare, striving to look interested
by fingering this silk shirt, this velvet jacket,
while wondering at that sad, lost feeling that holds him apart
as his wife emerges glamorous from the dressing room.
He’d rather wait outside, but standing on the sidewalk
and staring through plate glass makes him nervous,
the cold, reflective surface cutting him off,
a barrier he cannot cross without breaking something.
What if he had to move in a hurry,
fling off these shoes for sandals, throw on
high red boots and a sundress of blue, red, and gold,
then soar to the rescue at the signal of a woman’s scream?
It’s worrisome, the time wasted on these disguising layers
that grant respectability, or simple respect–a married man,
a man of sense and business. It’s a full-life disguise
that he sometimes longs to shuck off. But how
would he fly without her, this wife, dear alter ego, anima,
his cheer on a dark night? Inside the house,
she smiles, his best friend, handing him the latest mail:
effusive praise from a fellow librarian, now a fan:
“You’re Superwoman to me!”
He sighs and sets it down, rubs his eyes, discouraged.
“Not again,” he says, but has to laugh, loosening his tie.
“I guess being six feet tall with a high and tight
just doesn’t cut it anymore.” He dreads the move ahead,
the long rebuilding, the new disguise. But for now,
why waste a chance at freedom? He hangs up the suit–
puts on the blue dress, uniform of truth.
His wife says cheerfully, “Let’s do your nails.
You know you’re happiest when your cover’s blown!”
With a master’s in English literature, Adele Gardner has twice won third place in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her publications include a poetry collection (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) as well as 219 poems and 39 stories in venues such as Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Strange Horizons, American Arts Quarterly, Silver Blade, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Adele also serves as literary executor for her father and mentor, Delbert R. Gardner. Learn more at http://www.gardnercastle.com.