Dressed for Success
When she went back to work
mom wore complicated clothes:
layers starting from flesh up,
hose, girdle, brassiere, all white,
to keep her trim for the weekday
nine-to-five. Hose affixed
to yellow garters on thighs
high above her knee, next the girdle
crashing down her hips, across
belly and pelvis, a hard-ribbed
dam to protect whatever soft
parts could not be shown.
She demonstrated how to put on
the bra, folding from the waist
dropping her breasts just so
in two big lacy cups. Finally,
the form-fit nylon slip rained
cascade white over under things,
smoothed creases, erased edges.
That’s when mom stopped, lit
her Pell Mell, tissued her forehead,
moist in Fresno’s morning heat.
The neat navy gabardine skirt,
écru blouse finished the rest.
In spring or fall, a sweater;
in winter, a coat. For many years,
I watched her dress, watched
how she placed the world upon
her shoulders, one foundation
after another, to fortify herself
again and again, to tackle, maybe
win in the masculine world.
Jannie M. Dresser is a San Francisco Bay Area poet with deep roots in the San Joaquin Valley. Her book is “Workers’ Compensation: Poems of Labor & the Working Life.” She lives in Crockett, California.