In early communist China, for the appearance of equality, everyone was bound by law to wear standardized clothing. Bold colors, cuts, and textures were not permitted.
Fabric is duty-bound. Hours of uniforming rice in a field.
Cargo pants, heavy gloves—muddy in the gutter of industry.
Grandmother stuffed floorboards with forbidden love,
got drunk off silk when no one was watching.
The body: a looming canvas.
My grandmother: a constant becoming.
Who can blame a woman who wants to look nothing like where she came from?
I have never been able to afford a dress that did not smell like death.
Even the moths lust for cashmere instead of polyester.
I am my grandmother’s granddaughter,
blood-lipped and frivolous.
The trick is to out-dress the casket.
Snip the tags until they fall like borders at my feet.
We are trying to find an outfit that will grant us safe passage.
We are trying to never choose the sea.
I feel farthest from beauty when I think of it
belonging to a crisp polo behind a picket fence.
My fingers covet the opera headdress, the hanfu sash.
Every jewel, a peasant that refused to die.
Here is my Sunday best,
bought with my own, good coin.
Glory be to the lace, the frill, the glisten, and the gloss.
Who said love had to be useful?