Window Dressing

By Peter Halstead

Armani’d in the jeweled air
Flashing in the sequin glare
Of dappled see-through halter tops
Seen throughout the Capri’d shops,
Gucci glinting off the shows
Of flesh inside the dressed-up windows
Superbras and spandex straps
Underneath their disco wraps
That climb up boiling island thighs
And fall back down in swan-dive dyes,
The Buccellati panorama
Filling up with psychodrama,
Only Kookai and gelati
Covering the tourist body,
High noon conga on the via
Draped in sex and bougainvillea,
As Laetitia and Ivana
Pollenate the Quisisana,
Too much Fendi, Guess, and sky
For an unsophisticated eye:

Yet all the fashion on display
Above the equally outlandish bay,
Whether natural or crass,
Is captured in a pane of glass,
Where cold passions à la mode,
Like summer fireworks, explode,
And, lumped so close together, make
A real world from a costume fake,
The window pane’s transparent dance
Undressing starlets at a glance:
This world suits us if we view it
And at the same time see right through it.


I wrote this in July 1999 in the Punta Tragara Hotel in Capri. Its first draft was an attempt to show a window that didn’t belittle or reduce its reflections, but that in fact magnified them by juxtaposing things, making them rub shoulders; things that by themselves might have been strange or strangers, but which together in a window frame exploded into the same picture, shaping the world in two senses.
This is one of my reflection poems. A reflected view is always more focused and intense than the suddenly disappointing image you get when you turn around to look at what has been reflected. You have to crane your neck as well to see everything that has been so neatly framed in a smaller space for you by a window, without in any way having been miniaturized, but having been somehow enlarged by the passion of close association.
A reflection is condensed by a windowpane precisely because the window is closer to us physically than the view it reflects, so in a way windows cram objects together in our minds as well as in our eyes and make them easier to put together, so a psychological effect stems from a physical phenomenon.
Initially I had talked of sea-dark wines being bracketed by rampant vines, which climb dazzling white towers and spill down in flowers. I replaced one word, and suddenly every word changed, and fashion reared its pretty head, style versus content being a subordinate theme of what I was trying to say, so that my second section tries to say that a window’s seeming transparency, necessarily one-dimensional, in fact forces us deeper into the depths of its miniature world.