Peering in Matilda’s Bedroom

Hanging in an open closet
where it catches the first sun
in the morning
is a wedding dress,
pure white and lacy.

It stands sentry
for the array of plain
and floral dresses
that file in behind,
dangle in the shadows.

She never was married
and it’s against family law
to ask what it’s doing there.

At eighty-seven,
she most likely doesn’t know either.

It looks pathetic,
bears an air of tragedy,
maybe was handed down,
maybe was bought in hope.

My mother says,
from all she’s heard,
nobody ever loved her enough.

I know what she means.
I’ve seen what that looks like.

The First Appearance of a Chest

She had been waiting patiently,
then impatiently, for those two bumps to appear.
She’d grown comfortable with girlhood.
But now she felt as if she’d been too long
with her dolls and stuffed bears.
Her friends had matured enough for training bras.
Their conversation ripened in parallel.
She listened in but didn’t participate.

For months, she and her chest played
this game in the mirror.
She imagined what her breasts were supposed to look like.
The glass reflected the physical truth.
Meanwhile, the other girls were already
fetishizing their new figures.
They strolled more confidently past huddles of boys.
She slumped her shoulders, lowered her head so far
her brow almost grazed her toes.

One day, in the presence of her mother,
she broke out into uncontrollable sobs,
and intermittent words that proclaimed,
“I’ll never be a woman.”
“Think of breasts as a Christmas present,” her mother said.
“Yours will just arrive in the New Year.”
She kept on unbuttoning and feeling,
and praying for this gift.
The UPS truck arrived eventually.