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Kristy Bowen

the blue dress poems


Lucy has forgotten how to count.
Dance steps, teacups. How the light
smells of rain. Her dress is so blue

it aches in his mouth. Makes him
long to lick the inside of her wrist
where the cotton of her hips falls

away to shadow. Later, she swallows
enough gin to drown, and he'll fish her
from the pond, hauling her over the side

of the boat just in time. We are all a little
in love with her. The woman poring over
grapes in the market. The child crying

in the aisle. We are ruined by hammocks.
By sweetness. Her turned cheek.
Who doesn't want a girl who

is a sea chantey, an open window?
A pale beyond the fingers?
Something beautiful. Yet sad.

Now we eat oranges and talk
about poetry, mathematics.
How they are inadequate to

the breadth of our bodies,
the tightened span of our ribs.

She is naming seas and spinning.


The dressmaker wants
to call this pattern catastrophe,
or wreckage. How the indigo
roses spread like bruises
in their field of sky.

The pins between her teeth
vibrate and she imagines
suicides, bodies falling
from bridges. Each petal
a stain, an innuendo. Something
spreading itself to evening.

This fear of flowers
sets vases rattling in shops.
Sends her screaming from rooms
filled with chintz. She pricks
her thumb with the smallest
needle. Waits for the
bloom and the sting.


Somewhere a dress slips
from a woman's shoulder
and sets off a war. A hem

gathers water, darkening
at the bottom, and a hundred
children go missing. I wear it home

from the thrift shop, still bearing
the scent of lilies, and you dream
of a woman holding her breath.

When we sleep, night scavenges
our cellars. The bottoms of closets.
Weaves history in the lace

of a collar, the seam of a scarf.
There is a hurricane in your button hole.
A thousand dead men in your shoe.

I am something scrawled in the margins,
undressing by the light of stars.

©2006 by Kristy Bowen

Kristy Bowen's work has appeared in a number of print and online journals. Her most recent chapbook, errata, is available from her Web site. She lives in Chicago, where she edits the online journal, wicked alice, and runs dancing girl press, dedicated to publishing work by women poets. Her full length collection, the fever almanac, is forthcoming form Ghost Road Press in 2006.

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