Honorable Mention in the 2016 Flyleaf Books Poetry Contest

I’m five years old;
Mom talks to me
because of the dress-up dress I wear.
Yanked from a box in our basement,
the one-shouldered drape
smothers me in damask.
A black rosette bursts out
in moiré on the single shoulder—
to tickle my neck.

While we sit knee-to-knee
on our split level’s stairs,
Mom tells me she had once wanted
to commit suicide.
The top of her head
kisses the cheap iron banister
that has just wounded
my baby brother’s chin after a fall.

I bought that dress when I decided
I couldn’t go through with it.

She reaches out to pinch the stiff fabric,
green eyes caught in some place
called the Sixties and France.
I was so skinny back then, you know,
before you kids.

My brother cries upstairs,
so she leaves me wallowing
in her suicide dress.
I applaud her fear of suffocation,
blood and the unknown.
I’ve just learned from Bible school
I will die and my nightmares
where I’m caught without escape
in a basement fire only reinforces this.

I wish I could tell her about my dream,
but I’m afraid she’ll tell me hers.