A cabinet in her closet under the dresses
by Marge Piercy
On afternoons when my mother
was willing to love me, my father
gone off to Alpena or Kalamazoo
to repair some huge engine
that ran a paper or rolling mill
she would go to a small cabinet
with many drawers, the color
of a girlchild’s baby blanket.
She would extract one scrap
after another, all useless, pretending
to be sewing supplies but really
materials of her past in the form
of velvet or tulle, rayon or silk.
Then she would tell each story
familiar as breakfast but exotic
too, for the woman who danced
in that blue dress, the woman
who flirted in red satin was
young as a kitten, shone glorious
arrayed in hope with sparkle
of rhinestones that adorned
this broken purse. Once, those bits
of old fancy clothes murmured,
the world opened for me, an auto-
matic door whooshing promises.
She sat splay-legged on the floor
taking each tattered fabric of
her past into the lap of her
housedress of faded posies
and saying then I was alive.
Copyright © 2010 by Marge Piercy.