Next to the Mannequins
by Ralph James Savarese

At the Movies | Loehmann’s

Heehawing | Housewife | Naptime

At the Movies

As a boy, I loved Good & Plenty
now they just pull out my fillings.
Little grave diggers in reverse,
exhuming a dental coffin. My sibling
said, “They’re fetuses in snow.”
Another said, “They’re saintly turds.”
We were bored; the previews hadn’t
yet begun; darkness made us brave
with mischief. I said, “They’re astronauts
in capsules who must sleep for
a hundred years”—it takes forever
to get to the next star system.
One by one, the candy passed through
the heliopause—the box like solar wind
diminishing. Ahead: termination shock,
14 billion kilometers from my tongue.

Pluto, I assure you, is a planet.


My mother, Queen Hortense, hated
dressing rooms (she already felt trapped
by marriage), and so she’d make us try
on clothes in the display area—next
to the mannequins who braved their exposure
so much better than we did. (Think of them
as arctic explorers, icy winds having made them British,
which is to say rigid, which is to say dead.)
“Off! Off!” my mother would shout,
meaning pants, meaning shirt,
meaning I don’t have time for this!
How we all didn’t end up as nudists
or predatory priests escapes me.
My mother, on the other hand, would shop
for hours at Loehmann’s while we kids
waited in the car, pulling each other’s hair

like a church bell.


Gallo’s humor—that’s
what my mother called
the liquid rope heehawing
that wine affords.
Through a glass darkly,
she would joke,
or several glasses...
Why not the whole bottle?

She loved Necco Wafers.
They were like swallowing chalk,
a whole blackboard of calculations.
Pretty in pink does math!
She used to help me
with my calculus homework
while making dinner.
“Slow down, Mom, I don’t



With hypnosis, too, there are
believers and unbelievers:
the altered state proponents,
the nonstate proponents—
the latter like any
demystifying force.
Placebo effect, imaginative
role enactment....

From the Greek for “nervous sleep,”
a paradoxical form of concentration.
Monoideism, that lone angel
on the head of a pin.
The rest, you could say, is mist.
When my mother tried to give up
smoking, she promptly
hid all the silverware.


My maternal grandmother
was the maid, and my maternal
grandfather the chauffeur,
for the Bouvier family.
When found in a closet together,
they were fired—let go like balloons
or like dogs in heat. The former
became a cleaning lady
who died at 60 on her knees;
the latter, a cab driver who was
paralyzed in a traffic accident.
Another cab pushed him right
into a department store.
The mannequins, suddenly
prostrate, looked asleep.
Call it Naptime for Dummies.

Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and two collections of poetry, Republican Fathers, and When This Is Over: Pandemic Poems. His creative work has appeared, among other places, in American Poetry Review, Mudlark, New England Review, Ploughshares, Seneca Review and Southwest Review. You can learn more about Savarese and his work at

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