She likes to think that her white dress is a kitten she saved
in the war-fog of other white dresses,
that her body was the formula that nursed the white dress
back from a combination shrapnel-and-love-lack-induced coma,
that she takes on a regal demeanor facilitated by the play
of light and shadow that catch on her dress and texture her confidence
with a look that says: I have won at the front, but flaunt surrender—
that it would be a faux pas to mention the faux pas
of her wearing a white dress well into autumn,
but most of all, she thinks that she will not be loved purely in her white dress,
the way the white dress means. Carefully, she eats
a strawberry in front of the bachelors. She sips
from the martini glass. She likes to think she will leave
with one of three young men scarfing hors d’oeuvres.
They are foxy and youthful in their khakis and blue shirts.
She would like to change her mind about her white dress.
She wants her red dress to also be her white dress.
One morning, she hopes a man will tell one perfect joke,
which will bloom into one perfect twilit ice cream,
four years, one ring, one serviceable hovel in Santiago
where she would eat lightly in the summer, and in the winter
roasts, roasts, roasts! heavily rosemaried and thymed topped
with melting eggs! Then—midlife—niggling desire,
glorious divorce! Uproarious custody battle! Voilà! New start
selling honey with baby Ada in Vermont! In an alternate morning
she will wake up and stride down the cobbled streets of the German Village
where she will have kisses with her companion over tiny cups of steam.
Every other Sunday she may wake wanting to cloister herself
with priestly men too intimidated to touch her body
for fear of befouling her clear and apparent seraphic beauty.
Her Ada will be the unmothered and fly-pocked infants
of an unloving world. Surrounded by a hell of petit fours,
an empire of chandeliers, a forest of fake wood,
she folds her shoulders into a laugh—a bright one—
and she could be anyone—until her bobby pin falls,
until her strap slumps off her shoulder, until she feels
in the birdbath hollow of her chest her heart beat alone.
Everyone thinks the white dress was a smart buy.
Everyone drinks more martinis and leaves.
Rich Smith is from Belton, Missouri. He holds an MA in poetry from Ohio University. Currently, he is enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Washington. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bellingham Review, Rhino, and Blue Earth Review.