by Jaki Shelton Green
In my dreams, I am all the women in generations of white dresses white Sundays
that cover altars in all the hushed seams of white linen.
White gloves lift, pour, sift whispered prayers across crystal cups. Blood becomes bread.
I learn to lift white dresses over my head careful not to disturb the pleats that will soon
be crushed by hungry hands. What is the difference between standing, pouring blood
down the throats of phantom believers and kneeling before the parched lips of a nameless lover?
White dresses bear secrets in the neckline, along hem stitches. White dresses remember the
language of hands lifting, stretching, folding them into the froth of a cloud forest.
I am the shadow of all the white dresses hidden. I am the ghost of all the white dresses
remembering the stretch of a daughter’s shroud. The dance of another daughter’s wedding veil.
I am the tears that hold the needles steady while grandmothers stitch a Rapunzel of sky. I am
breath that is caught in the fragrance of a mother’s hair. White communion dresses wade in the
holiness of a forced faith that does not rhyme with my name. I become red fierce bloody ocean
swallowing a procession of white dresses at dawn. Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair.
Come dance in the cloud forest. Come dress the nymphs in your long silky strands. Come lift the
skirts of thirsty virgins. Stand beneath the altar to catch all the white dresses that they are casting
into the wind. My shoulders sigh under the reluctance of stiff coarse white dresses woven with
shards of prisms so tight the waist becomes a prison. I want to undress my Sunday body for slow
patient redressing of Saturday night black lace. Black sweat. A Black promise to erase this white
stain. White dresses become harsh smears. Confessional cages. White dresses on my skin remind
me of the unraveling of crows hiding in the elderberry tree. Hiding all things shiny. All things
unborn to a womb of ink. This is the tightness inside the throat of a white dress that pulls stitches
tighter. That threaten mutiny. I am the night walker in white. I am the song of the legend of the
woman in the white cloud forest who is known to eat the lace from her sleeves her collars her
buttons. White dresses become succor for a timeless famine. White dresses. White doves. White
stones. White crosses. White veils. I am the one chosen to commit. Conceal. Execute. Reveal.
Undress the sorcery. Betrayal. Acquisition. Acquittal. The dowry of white dresses.
The violence of white dresses….
Cover me tenderly.
Poem copyright 2021 by Jaki Shelton Green. All rights reserved.
See more poems from Jaki Shelton Green debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Stillbirth,” and “For the lover who eats my poems…”
Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompt