In a slight bit of a poem called “Alexandr Blok,” David St. John tells of spending an evening with two scholars, one of whom is “the final word” on Blok, a Russian poet and playwright who lived from 1880 to 1921, when he died of the appropriately poetic malady of malnutrition.
St. John loves Blok as much, it seems, for the dark romance of his life as for his work. Listening to the scholar talking about his hero, St. John finds himself “drinking the conversation in so deeply” and “reaching back into the dark century” as he imagines himself transported into Blok’s romantic (at least at a distance) world.
Finally, when the time comes to say goodnight, St. John tells us that
I got up to leave in my black cashmere
Overcoat I’d found hanging on the back rack of a Venice
thrift store & became just another shadow
About to slide wordlessly into the night & yes it’s true
it was snowing just in upstate New York
Not Moscow or St. Petersburg nor in any ancient page
yet to anyone who saw me walking
I imagined myself as the most lyrical shadow alive
In the words of Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, “What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not.”
Changing into what we are not … that’s something all of us want to do at times, isn’t it? Sometimes we want to deceive; sometimes we want to explore, experiment, or play; sometimes we want to experience, just for a little while, the romance or daring or drama of a life we wish were ours.
David St. John’s thrift store coat gave him that opportunity. It’s the sort of small but joyful gift your clothes can bestow upon you, too, if you choose them wisely and wear them with a high heart, no matter the stage you happen to find yourself upon.