Lantern Review | Issue 7.2

Eileen R. Tabios

Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Uppity Ilokano on Louboutin Vulvas+

To Louboutin, shoes are less interesting for their physical properties than for their psychological ones. A shoe can be an icebreaker, or an inkblot. Louboutin said one day, in the course of praising a Viennese fetish boot from the nineteenth century, “A shoe has so much more to offer than just to walk.”—from “Sole Mate” by Lauren Collins, The New Yorker, March 28, 2011

But it is an unfamiliar stereotype, the face
of me in a blue, white, and red, thin-striped
Burberry dress, a scarlet glass of Petrus
raised towards the sun. When I cross my
legs I show you the red soles of my high
heels. Yes, unfamiliar to your carefully
manured paradigms. Then this problem
arises: whenever you accuse me of class
warfare, I reply in Ilokano. I end with noting
your haircut and wondering if you’d reacted
as the situation required or whether your
barber is still alive. I don’t lack compassion:
Nagadu ti ammok. I speak Ilokano, fluent
enough to change that “c” to a postcolonial
“k”—sharp enough to master ochlokinetics.

* *

And now to the back story—look again
at the “vivid, glossy red” lacquering my soles:
“they signal a . . . sumptuary code, promising
a world of glamour and privilege.” This poem
offers what journalists call a “scoop”—these
soles are the doorway to where chemicals
ooze at their sexiest, where eros becomes
defined through pyridine, squalene, urea,
acetic acid, lactic acid, complex alcohols,
glycols, ketones, and aldehydes. No need
to take off my heels should I invite you
to join me in changing the structures of atoms
and molecules as we sing to the ceiling,
Come, my Sole Mate: as Jenny Lopez sang,
“Watch these red . . . Watch me go, bye baby”!

+ = From The Ashbery Riff-Offs—where each poem begins with 1–2 lines from “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” by John Ashbery. (Back to top)

Photo of Eileen R. Tabios Eileen R. Tabios has released over fifty collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and in cyberspace. Translated into ten languages, she also has edited, coedited, or conceptualized fifteen anthologies of poetry, fiction, and essays. Her writing and editing work has received recognition through awards, residencies, and grants.• Photo by T. Pollock.

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