Poetry

 

 

 

Once Upon a Dress

A sneeze, a sudden shift of wand, and instead
xxxxxof slippers, Cinderella gets a glass
xxxxxdress. She shines, but can’t move.

Somehow – forklift? one final whiff of magic? –
xxxxxshe arrives at the ball anyway –
xxxxxa spectacular diamond, naked,

under glass. The prince, of course, is smitten.
xxxxxDizzy with smiles, she turns in place,
xxxxxmusic box ballerina, egg beater.

Come midnight, (does she have any choice?)
xxxxxshe reels Prince in for the kiss.
xxxxxNext morning, in the way

of such tales, they are married. No one mentions
xxxxxthe problem of her dress.

What this bride needs is a hands-on
xxxxxprince, or, better yet, her own tool belt
xxxxxor ice pick. (Look at him dashing

and daunting, all straight teeth and epaulets.
xxxxxHe doesn’t have a clue.

But this is her story.) Will she be a punch bowl
xxxxxforever? Maybe not. Look at her.
xxxxx– I don’t mean her; I mean her name.

The first part’s hard
xxxxxas sparks, blocky,
xxxxxsolid. But the last two syllables
orchestrate escape – el-la.

Listen – she’s singing
xxxxx– I want her to – as she slowly,
xxxxxslowly lifts a sleeve of glass. – La, la, la.

xxxxxxxxxxx1958 Photo

Standing in the driveway, between
grandmother and mother,
six years old, caught
in the rustling dress.
A white choir
schedules me
for stars.

My mother holds on
as though I might lift
skyward. The veil predicts
my bondage. My
wings? How small
can puppies be? I ask,
but I mean sins,
pressing my hands
together. I fear

I do not fit
this dress, cannot
stay in lines, or clasped
in frozen prayer.
Mother knows only
white lines … I mean
lies. She passes them on
like grandmother’s rings.

xxxxxxxxxxFor ZJ, International School of Prague, 2006

Too fine for work, too thin
for winter, the color of cinnamon
potpourri, rose petals,

these red gloves I’ve bought – simple self
indulgence. The tag inside reads: crafted
in China. And I imagine girls – their dark11070370-women-s-hands-in-red-leather-gloves-isolated-on-white-stock-photo

heads bent over, stitching thumbs – like m’s
when laid out flat – and a flock
of between-finger v’s. Penmanship

in supple cowhide. Flat shapes, finger
to finger, cashmere shadows nested
in leather palms, they memorize

hands, sew in their sleep the scent
of raw leather, of dye, of fine
wool fluff. And I think of Zhihuong,

the Chinese girl in English 10, wearing
pink corduroys, pink sweater – awkward,
dyslexic, her voice bowing. She bends

over crooked letters, her nails startlingly
red. She writes: in my country
75 pupils in class. Teacher may not

like you. You sit side-by side, almost
on top of. You try to learn
as much as you can.