Academic journal article TriQuarterly

The Nightgown

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

The Nightgown

Article excerpt

Just before it swooped down, from the nurse's skilled hands, a fluff of white folds, weightless from years of laundering, for a moment my mother held up her arms over her head, over that poor hunched nakedness. That's when I saw how the body, old, reaches inside itself,

craving more and more spaces to dwell in: crimped tucks below the armpits and each rib, drapes smocked below the chin, across the belly quilted pleats: beds, hollows, nooks, and nooks. And when the gown swooped down, a fluid un- folding of a screen, I remembered the time when she had

opened my own gown over my taut child's trunk, how I'd raised up skinny arms to receive it as she received it now. I wanted to hide in those folds: lithe sun-dried cotton, waves of embrace where the day's blame was forgiven. Didn't the saints in the books

drape their bodies in endless folds below the gilded halos? How could I know then that the body as it ages knits its own garment, thousands of pockets, to hold all it cherished, all it lost, all it had hurt, once more close to itself. …

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