David Shumate



At auction I buy two dozen mannequins and set them around the house.  I give each a name and dress them in tuxedos.  Gowns.  Work clothes.  Pajamas. I set a few in front of the television.  Two at the kitchen table. A man on the toilet. A woman in the shower.  Four on the lawn with croquet mallets.  At night vandals arrange them in obscene positions.  But I don’t mind. I’m glad they’re interested.   Two mannequins lie naked in the spare bedroom staring up at the ceiling.  One dangles by his neck from a rope in the workshop.  Pull him once—the garage door opens.  Pull him again—it closes.  The rest are stacked in the purgatory of my closet.  My neighbors think I’m a pervert.  My mother doesn’t believe in psychiatrists but makes an exception in this case.  Last week the police searched the place and left laughing.   When my lover arrives she calls them by their proper names.  She brings a new hat for one.  A paisley scarf for another.  Then she turns the lights out and stands quite still among them.  I know which one she is. But I play along with her little game.



[“Mannequins” from The Floating Bridge, by David Shumate, © 2008.  Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.]




David Shumate is the author of High Water Mark (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), which won the 2003 Agnes Lynch Starett Poetry Prize, and The Floating Bridge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008).  His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Atlanta Review, Mississippi Review, and Mid-American Review, among other publications.  Shumate is poet-in-residence at Marian College in Indianapolis.