Skeleton, Shop Mannequin


I’d like to have one of each:
the plastic skeleton I shook
hands with when the surgeon left the room
a mannequin carried fireman’s hoist through the street.

I’d have them both in the same room
the white plaster mannequin with feet
fastened to a base, the skeleton
since it can dance, dangling

by the open window whose net curtain
threatens to clothe it with the lightest bandage.
I’d dress the mannequin differently for each season
and for the skeleton I’d buy a hat

and a black bowtie with polka dots.
One wired and flexible hand could hold a cane.
Where would they go for a date
for the skeleton to play Grand Guignol

the mannequin to sip a martini
wearing yards of scarves and furs, opera
gloves and a jewelled cigarette holder?
At the end of the evening they would embrace

as he saw her into a taxi and got in
himself, into the back seat. ‘I don’t
take bones,’ the taxi driver would say.
‘You need flesh first,’ the mannequin would say.


Elizabeth Smither’s latest publications are Night Horse (Auckland University Press, 2017) and Loving Sylvie (Allen & Unwin, 2019).