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.
Standing in the driveway, between
grandmother and mother,
six years old, caught
in the rustling dress.
A white choir
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 dark
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.