Michelle Reale

Flare, 1972

In the closet, I stand gathered in dresses around my upturned face. I pull them to me. I ponder the moment in which my body might spring into a full-sized woman. Who will buy my clothes while I cower, naked and vulnerable and suddenly as grown as I will ever be? I was made for the swirl, for gathering chiffon, pastels the color of sherbert. But my mother’s dresses from the fire sale at the mall feed my starved imagination, inflame my nascent femininity. They are bright. They are slim. They are survivors, beckoning. They were inexpensive. The store was clearing out. They discounted further at the cash register. My mother’s words reach my father’s impassive face. Well, ok, he says. Wear this one! I say. Then, this one. Later, that one! No, my mother says, now unsure , tucking her dark hair behind her ear. Not really my color. Too short. After I lose a few pounds. No. No. No. They hang on hangers, dejected as a girl with a harelip. The smell of loss and regret is like a lit fuse. Allowed to sizzle and spread.

Michelle says, Viola, for sure, for its mournful thrum.

In our dream band, on viola:

Michelle Reale is the author of Blood Memory: Prose Poems (Idea Press, 2021) Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) , In the Blink of a Mottled Eye (Kelsay Books, 2020). Forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press is Cofini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily.  She is the Founding and Managing Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing

The Orchestra
c. 1880 Jean Louis Forain

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