Poem of the Week: burning dress by Xandria Phillips

his fingers scalding the seam of a linen thing my mother sewed me/ 
her thinking over the drone of a singer sewing machine of a tall man/ a sweet boy 

with the face of Sidney Poitier/ a few years my senior/ opening a car door/ 
my smooth leg stepping/ sidewalk/ fabric falling above the knee 

and swinging forward as he pulls me up/ his hand there on my waist not too tight/ 
guiding/ and this would continue for sometime/ sometimes in that dress until the day 

our love was so strong he had to pull the garment over my shoulders and leave his prints 
on everything the linen had covered/ she stitched a plea in a garment/

linen is a fine cloth/ Egyptians used it as a currency and wrapped their dead in its flaxen fibers/ 
my skin turned brittle in linen under hands my mother didn’t imagine/ she said women 

so critical of men usually have some shame-pain inside them/ as if you need to touch 
a needle to know it will puncture/ girls I know are up late fondling lovers/ 

I am up smoking with a wine stained tongue afraid if I close my eyes I will sleep 
for one thousand years/ mummy dress breathing in my closet/ fear stains breeding 

in the armpits/ my plea/ to be the fingers that slide the dress over my shoulders/ to feel 
the woman I am currently loving from afar/ scratch her name into my back and rub cocoa butter 

into my seams/ my plea/ compliments on the movement and the beauty and the tailoring 
and look where it got me before/ look what beauty can be for me/ if I light a match over linen/ 

just some pattern fit to my form really/ I won’t feel stove-top fingernails in every fiber/ 
every onlooker/ and my mother/ the smooth leg of her dream will still emerge hairless/ 

gleaming/  plea becoming fantasy/ my ecstatic form moving too quickly for a passing man 
with a vulgar tongue to see a pretty painted mouth/ swinging 

forward/ sidewalk/ fabric falling above the knee/ legs spreading on and on and on/
pretty dimpled thighs wrapping around the world like a crown


*Originally published in Sidekick Lit*

xandria phillips
Xandria Phillips



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