Chrysanthemums, Signs, And Paper Dresses

I have been giving a lot of thought to bad poetry lately. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I found the word “chrysanthemum” going through my mind. I had forgotten what they looked like exactly, so I imagined a poem entitled “The Forgotten Chrysanthemum”. It was horrible, which filled me with a little, tickling bit of glee. Not long after, I saw a group of oh-so-cool university students, and I thought of a poem named “Ode to a Dying Chrysanthemum,” which used the passing flower as a metaphor for the more annual and less perennial usefulness of their education. The poem I thought up when I imagined one such flower potted on my windowsill was really something; it was called “Oh, Chrysanthemum, How You Make My Apartment Grand!” It had been a couple of days since that, so I truly thought that I was off my chrysanthemum kick, until I decided to walk home from work today. The walk was quite long, so I had a lot of time to watch the leaves fall, and see how yellow the leaves were, and then to think how chrysanthemums are probably yellow, and then of course, to think of another bad poem:

I Should Have Watered My Chrysanthemum

The yellow leaves snap and scratch their way
through dull green stems as they fall,
too far gone to know thirst.
The sound reminds me of something I have only imagined:
the rustle of the paper dress from China
that my mother once wore.
When she speaks of it she smiles.
I imagine it fell around her knees and rustled
like the dry chrysanthemum leaves
scraping slowly now across my windowsill
in the afternoon’s fall breeze.

I have decided to become a fan of bad poetry, at least for a little while. It is freeing to set out to create bad poetry, think of a subject, write it down, and then succeed nearly every time. The only thing that can get in your way is if you accidentally write the really good, almost-Pulitzer kind of poetry, because then you have failed miserably at creating bad poetry. What you have written is unacceptable. What a pity.

I walked home from work today. I figure that it was probably about four or five kilometres. If you take into account that I arrived home only about twenty minutes after the bus normally drops me off, and that I am anti-sporty, this is stunning. My reason for walking home was this: every day the same things pass by my window on the bus, but I never get to really look at anything (this is partly due to the speed of the bus and partly due to the fact that I am always averting my eyes downward to avoid the harsh first rays of the rising sun), and I wanted to see what this city had to offer me on such a beautiful fall day. It did offer me a lot of eye candy, like pretty trees and still stretches of water, but I am going to tell you about the signs. There were two that I particularly liked. The first one read: “No Parking Permitted Along This Sidewalk. Contrary to city bylaw 8484.” Now that’s just plain silly. It was an official-looking city sign which was telling me that its' commandment was contrary to its makers’ bylaws. Why not make another bylaw to go along with the kajillion other bylaws that says no parking is permitted there for real? The second sign I liked was on the back of a long, industrial trailer, and it read: “Trailer Makes Wide Turn.” There was no “s” on “turn.” It sounded more like a descriptive colloquialism, like “baby got back.” I can almost hear some bar guy cat-calling “Yo baby, you make wi-ide turn!” and bobbing his head to emphasize his appreciation of her butt.

I was factually off in my poem, “I Should Have Watered My Chrysanthemum”. Actually, the whole thing was off. I don’t have a potted chrysanthemum on my windowsill. Also, I have never imagined the paper dress my mother owned as a child, because she was an adult when they were invented, and she never told me that she owned one. Paper dresses were not invented until the mid-sixties, and my mother was born in 1944. And, I don’t think I like chrysanthemums. The regular yellow kind are so garden-variety.

Paper Dress Facts and Links:
* Read the scintillating history of the paper dress.
* Consumer Reports had this to say about the paper dress in 1966: “The Paper Caper, a wear-it-once dress from the Scott Paper Co., is rather sloppily made; the "fabric" is not very strong; and the printed color has a tendency to rub off when it gets damp. You do receive discount coupons for Scott products with your purchase.”
* If you are just burning to get wax musical about the paper dress, here’s the song for you.
* There is even art about, or at least including the concept of , the paper dress!
* The Philadelphia Museum of Art takes pains to preserve paper dresses for future generations. I guess one never knows what be seen as culturally important in the future.
* You can even buy a paper dress, never worn, for $40.
* Some people somewhere held a “paper dress ball.” I am quite impressed with some of the gowns.
* In 1967, Fortune Magazine reported that "papermakers foresee a permanent, profitable place for paper clothing . . . Paper, cheaper than conventional textiles, has one unique advantage: Dresses can be raised for miniskirt heights with a snip of the scissors. The leftover strip of paper can be used as a hair bow." Ha ha, Fortune Magazine. The article I lifted this quote from is a nice, little read, too.