Rose M. Smith
Grandmother's nightgown came to me at twenty-four
with heirlooms wrapped in plastic.
Translucent white on my brown skin,
I loved the way it whispered secrets to my years
and flowed around my bare feet, begged to be filled.
I let its soft lace lie against the lactate wish
of rivers not yet flowing and whispered cleavage
where only a wish had been once hidden.
I doubled it around me, crushed its folds
in trembling, sweaty palms.
Alone in the stucco at fourteen, I opened the drawer
in her room to finger the crinkle woven in
by souls who heard the song of these synthetic fibers' wales,
imagined fineries of my own but none so grand
and wondered often why she failed to wear them.
Grandmother's nightgown came in search of my small frame
just days after the limousines pulled away.
I was elected, chosen, worried then
what spirits would come softly in the drape
to change my youth forever.
Not so early it might fall to the suckle,
be stained by letdown or by babes.
Not so late the queenly flow of manmade blends
might go unnoticed in the dim of many days.
Grandmother's nightgown came to me
Before her waist became my waist,
before the droop, before the spread,
before her pout had settled deeply into my own chin.
Before my face became her face without the Alabama burn.
Before the lace began to show its age.
If I had seen what promise lay within its seams
would I have found it still so great a treasure?
Handed both my future and my past
would I still so quickly answer yes and take it
when they ask?
(The Hong Kong Review, Vol. II, No. 1)