Judith Harris: “Wedding Dress”




After she died, I sent it to the cleaners
who vacuum-sealed it in plastic—
the long satin train, its lacy fabric
a bone-chilling ivory turned jaundiced.
I put it back in its sky-blue box,
almost life-size, as if you could fit
the bride back in there with just
enough room to breathe.

Months later, looking through storage
I found it again, embalmed in mothballs,
and peered into the box, this time
seeing a museum relic guaranteed to last;
the mummy arms sternly crossed
the full bodice tacked onto cardboard.

That gown was hand sewn
by Mrs. Solinsky in her Brooklyn apartment,
stitched with pearls like fragile egg cases,
specks of rhinestones, her arthritic hand
pinning up the hem. The war long over.
Now I flatten my hand over the dress
covered with a thin film of dust,
as if to measure the distance between us,
her body, my body, there and not there.



Books by Judith Harris include Atonement and The Bad Secret (LSU Press), Night Garden (Tiger Bark), and Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing (SUNY Press). Her poems have been published in Image, The Nation, The Atlantic, New Republic, Hudson Review, Image, Alaska Quarterly Review, North American Review, and American Life in Poetry. A new book of criticism, The Poetry of Loss: Romantic and Contemporary Elegies, is published by Routledge.

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