Katharine Coles

A coat of softest skin. The emperor
Admiring his ensemble in the mirror
Admires himself. His error:

It's not his skin. He's blinded by finery
Fillups at scrotum and throat, has an awry
Relationship to the material, airy

As chiffon and lace, as insouciance is
And insouciant gesture, a séance's
Whisper thrilling his spine. Once is

Enough, or once was: silk delicious,
Velvet's stroke dark and luscious
At nape. Now, his mind says, Shush—

Understanding can't hold you together.
Only the sack of skin can gather
Organ and bone in. What gathers skin? Other                     

To every other. To impulse
His heart beats yes, pulse
An ornament at his wrist. Nothing else

To do now but surrender
Desire to desire. What desire renders?
He'll be fine if he stays indoors.





I am obsessed these days with the body, and have long been interested in clothes as objects that can embody really fine, accessible designthough many people who practice "high arts" like poetry are dismissive of this eminently democratic art form. In this poem, the tale The Emperor's New Clothes became a little machine for thinking about both the body and our relationship to its adornments, both built in and added.