“The dress is an oil slick. The dress / ruins everything. In a hotel room / by the water, I put it on when / he says, I want to watch you take it off. /” (Jones 29).
In the first few lines of “Drag”, I think the narrator implies how his family’s homophobia bleeds into his relationships. I think the dress symbolizes the speaker’s queerness and the confidence that he has gained in understanding his identity. However, simultaneously, “the dress ruins everything”, which may represent how the narrator’s self-worth is decaying. As the narrator distracts himself by looking out of the window, the poem captures the narrator’s split between embracing his “drag”, and being consumed by self-hatred, which is symbolized by the oil spill. Based on the other poems in this set, I think these lines comment on how queer people are made to feel that they are dark and dirty, like an oil spill.
The image of oil versus the water creates a binary, where oil symbolizes unhealthy self-esteem, and the narrator as a whole, and the water symbolizes purity, and what the narrator’s father hoped he would be. The symbol of water reoccurs in the poem with lines like, “the rain has owned us” (Jones 29), which I think comment on how the narrator still feels indebted to his father because of the abuse he suffered. In turn, this hatred is like an oil spill, ruining his relationships.
The title of this poem is also relevant. The narrator puts on the dress so he feels secure in his identity. However, even with the dress on, I think he still feels like a drag, a burden, an oil slick, like he’s ruining everything.
I think these lines are representative of Jones’ internalized homophobia and the remaining effects that still linger from his father’s abuse.