First Red Dress
It’s sleeveless, upper back bare but I’m eight
and not fleshy. Skinny and free to show skin.
I want perfect bows. I straighten
and am cowed, the knots too tight.
Try again, disappointed in the new wrinkles.
My mother’s hands smell like lemon detergent,
her palms a little moist. It’s August, my birthday month,
everyone’s necks and backs of knees slick in the afternoon.
I run to show my brother, and the-one-I-must-call-brother.
“I like it,” my brother says.
The other says, “Go out in that dress
and you’ll get split like a watermelon. Down there.”
I can twirl and balloon its full skirt.
I take full strides. How could I rip anything?
Fall on a big rock? Cut myself down there,
though it’s never happened before.
First red dress and difficult to put on, take off.
Red cotton with peacock feathers all over.
I leave the bad feeling of the boys’ room,
think of my flesh as a broken watermelon,
seeds making pupils on the feathers’ eyespots.
Pink flesh and black eyes on my flesh,
like the time I dropped a melon on the front step
after carrying it alone from the car.
Me and my mother and brother ate it anyway,
spooned into its split. Left some for the ants.about the author