it’s hard to keep a white dress clean

By rui ho

buy a white dress for the confessional. knee-length, no
higher. your mother scolds you for trying to
tuck the fabric under your knees for prayer. it’s so hard
to keep a white dress clean, she says,
eye-whites gleaming cold
and pale under the lights. think of the work you’re giving me,
she says, teeth bared—
white flashes—
scraped clean of blood.
prayer can’t save your knees now, red-scabbed and white-scarred
from kneeling for hours without protection.

buy a white dress for the baptism. buy a white dress
thin enough to flutter butterfly-delicate
around you, the wings of a forsaken angel stripped
of stiff feathers and holy light. you get in
the water and it spreads out around you like sea foam.
your father pushes you under
and the mermaid drowns
your penance: the water in your lungs.
you peel off your dress to find white handprints against your skin.

buy a white dress for the sermon. lichtenburg
figures sprawl eerie white down
your lightning-rod spine, forming every word
you heard the pastor say, cut into you
like an age-old prayer. you are struck down, cast out, fallen from the
stillness of heaven—now the only thing
moving under your skin is quilled fear.

buy a white dress for the funeral. strappy white heels
—platforms, not stilettos—
inch their way across a white-mold floor.
someone with your face is laid out
in an ivory casket, a casket spray of bone-white
lilies and roses arranged across it.
one by one you

let fall your flowers:
your parents bring admiring carnations,
a pale pink blush high on the furled petals, but
you hold a crimson rose, a lone spot of
grief for the innocence that fills the room. it doesn’t matter
either way—everything bleeds to white atop the casket.

rui is an aspiring writer who specialises in writing queer fluff and angst, and often hyperfixates on incredibly specific topics. in their free time, they like to cry over ancient chinese sword gays and struggle through learning multiple languages at once. otherwise, they can be found on archive of our own (ao3) as ruiconteur.

Image: @celiamichon via Unsplash

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