Frippery and Demise

Frippery and Demise

by Valerie Wetlaufer

Always imaginative, sometimes

imaginary, we tied thin red ribbons

around our necks in honor of you :

the necklace of blood that bloomed

at the Revolution. Pristine and filthy

you wore the ocean in your hair.

From youth we learn to manipulate

and adorn the female form. Ball gowns,

afternoon dresses, robes and petticoats

in a score of delicate shades, the silks

embroidered with floral designs and

silk ribbon appliqué, the borders trimmed

with serpentine garlands of silver and gold

lace, fields of artificial flowers, feathers,

tassels and silk ribbon bows, rosettes

and ruffles, passementerie and beading and metallic fringe.

Even for a queen, your trousseau was a spectacular one.

Covered in sapphires on your coronation,

the weight of hair and dress held you down.

Your face seemed the midpoint between

top of the hair and hem of the gown and your neck showed

no sign of bowing under the strain.

For death you dressed in white: plum-black

shoes, a fresh white underskirt, and the immaculate chemise.

Around your neck the prettiest muslin fichus,

the ruffled linen bonnet as colorless as your hair.

A figure of pure, radiant white. The color of a ghost too beautiful.

Valerie Wetlaufer is Poetry Editor of Quarterly West and a doctoral fellow at the University of Utah. She holds an MFA from Florida State University. Her poems and reviews have been published in Drunken Boat, Word Riot, Bloom, Western Humanities Review, Tarpaulin Sky, and other journals. Her manuscript has been a finalist for the Lexi Rudnitsky Prize, the Miller Williams Prize, the Brittingham Prize, and the Elixir Press Prize. She has published two chapbooks: Scent of Shatter (Grey Book Press 2010), and Bad Wife Spankings (Gertrude Press 2011).

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