The Afterparty (Angela Sorby)

“[T]he most beautiful combination of English sounds was cellar-door; no association of ideas here to help out!  sensuous impression merely!  the cellar-door is purely American.”
–Cyrus Lauron Hooper, 1903


No, they did not win the pageant:
cellar door won, despite a poor showing
in the talent competition –

sitting still with snow falling.
How is that a talent? entitlement whispered.
How is it even beauty? carped diversity.

Only later did cellar door creak open
to admit the losers as they straggled
down the boardwalk (midnight, midwinter,

Atlantic City):  vulnerable, entitlement,
transgender, diversity—
one by one
they found cellar door, teetered in,

and kicked off their stilettoes.
Turns out cellar door displayed
a surprising depth, an earthy

laugh, a candle in the darkness.
In the end, even evidence-based
and science-based found their way,

carrying fetus.  Then cellar door closed,
so when the pageant Judge came
a-calling he found a cold knob,

a lock with no key, not a trace
of the underground bacchanal
that was—just then—picking up steam.

“You are all beautiful!”
slurred cellar door mock-
seriously, popping a fifth

Sam Adams.  Everyone roared.
A conga line formed.  No one
gave a damn anymore.


Angela Sorby is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently The Sleeve Waves from University of Wisconsin Press. Her work has won the Brittingham Prize, a Midwest Book Award, the Felix Pollak Prize, and others. She teaches at Marquette University.

Inspiration: I love how words lead their own lives; they are always just a little bit out of control.


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