portion of the artwork for Cassandra de Alba's poetry

Traje de novia
Cassandra de Alba

The dress in the trunk is cream-colored. The woman
who wore it was named Leonila. The jacket will not
button around my ribs; the skirt barely closes.

We have no photographs of this woman,
who must have been so small
as to seem like a child.

December of my senior year, when my mother
had still not woken up from surgery, an ICU nurse
took me for twelve, wouldn’t let me in the room.

Swallowed by a baggy sweatshirt and jeans, I sat
in a swivel chair, waited for her to fetch my father.
Car keys still clutched in my fist, I did not understand.

Some women will always be mistaken for girls.
This is Leonila’s legacy, passed down to her
from women whose names I can only guess at.

Even on her wedding day, bundled
into all that lace and satin, she would
have been dwarfed by everyone.

We keep the dress in a trunk in the living room.
To get to it, I have to clear off several months’ debris—
an abandoned crossword puzzle, a cat brush, a coaster

featuring a photo of me, age four, sitting inside the mouth
of a stone hippopotamus, wearing fruit-patterned shorts
that go down to my knees. I wore those shorts for years.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 38 | Fall 2012