White dress with blood
Take this sad salvage. Broderie anglaise
splattered with a batwing patch. Most likely
jugular spray. It’s gummed together
the Princess Elisa floral collar, so you can hardly
make out the trademark petals. A shame.
The iron smell is very prominent.
The puff sleeves would have lime slashes
normally, but here the satin inserts
(you see?) are brickdust and stiff.
To find early maidenwork
soiled thus, ruined – it’s heartbreaking.
It’s a coming-out number. Summer.
The wearer would have been 16, maybe 17.
Wealthy. The embroidered swallows
would have taken weeks and several hands.
If you tilt it, under the crust you can see
a courting couple under the willow.
Kirsten Irving is a poet and voiceover, and one half of the team behind collaborative poetry press Sidekick Books. She has edited and co-edited several anthologies, on topics as diverse as birds, video games, robots and Catullus. Her own writing has been published by Happenstance and Salt, widely anthologised and thrown out of a helicopter.