• Elizabeth Smither


The Birth Dressing Gown


I can’t see this towelling dressing gown
knee-length, with small embroidered flowers
without remembering it soaked in sweat
and smelling like geraniums.

The hours my daughter laboured in it
have left no traces, physically. It blows
on the clothesline, clean, sweet-smelling
a little more faded, florally

but its effect in my memory
is so close it makes a conjugation
and a declension: each tense, each case
rises from each single embedded flower

and even when it is dry and folded
sweat seems to pour from it, the labouring
the way the belt hung down
since it could not be done up.




Ruby’s Heirloom Dress


Great-great-grandmother pulled on her thimble
and pricked her needle through the smocking
the yoke made a tiny silk plain above it
below flowed the skirt with embroidered rosebuds.

Great-great-grandmother’s long fingers and bent skull
are gone from the world but tenderness is left
in the fall of the skirt, the complex lines of smocking
the peaks and troughs the cream and pink thread makes

like tiny windows, since you are tiny,
that open like casements over your heart.
Everything in your dress is openness: the neck
delicately trimmed with lace, the sleeves gathered in

with ribbon and rosebuds, the floating hem as if
great-great-grandmother was sailing around the world
stopping at islands with fruit and palm trees
and a soft sea with waves the way the hem falls.