Night Clothes

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)

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