Fairy tales taught us the magic of a dress.
How the perfect frock worn
to a suitable social event results
in a wedding to the man of our dreams.
As girls, we knew with absolute certainty
that the right gown could capture a heart.
We learnt in books that’s how it happens.
So we went hunting for one.
But without a fairy godmother
to conjure outfits woven
from sunlight, moonlight, starlight,
it’s hard to find anything as effective.
I bought mine from an elegant shop
that I had to get to on the bus,
with babysitting money I’d saved up.
It was sophisicated, ox-blood red,
a heavy crêpe fastened
from hem to neck with carved
bone buttons up the back, both sides
of the skirt split right to the top
of my willowy thighs. It billowed
from the princess waistline so I floated
in an ocean of red like a woman
from a Pre-Raphaelite painting.
There were no balls or banquets
to attend, weekends spent
chugging cheap cider, smoking
cherry tobacco in empty churchyards.
So, one day in autumn, I wore
it to the woods to search
for an elfin-faced boy I was dating.
Through damp undergrowth I crept
amid the scent of rotting leaves and fungus,
tripping over roots and tree stumps,
catching my hem on bramble thorns,
a wood nymph in knee-high lace-up boots.
I found him with a group of friends
sprawled over two fallen tree trunks, drinking
warm beer, cooking instant noodles and packet soup.
Settling on a mossy branch in the haze
of cigarette smoke, I swallowed
something luminous, listened
to their drum circle, hoped
he was pleased to see me.
Later, I wandered home alone
through fields of leftover pumpkins
in the fading light, a single mud stain
splattered on my rust red chest.
I scrubbed the dress down,
took it to the dry cleaners,
but that day in the woods
never washed out.
Lucy Whitehead has a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MA in History of Art and Archaeology. She writes haiku and poetry. Her haiku have been published in numerous international journals and anthologies and her poetry has appeared in Amethyst Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Burning House Press, Collective Unrest, Electric Moon Magazine, Ghost City Review, Mookychick Magazine, Neon Mariposa Magazine, Pussy Magic, Re-side, and Twist in Time Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @blueirispoetry.