Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


by Rochelle Ratner


Night gowns? Some frilly lace things that couldn't help but
irritate the bruised skin? Or sheer, smooth silk gowns you
could see what was left of the breasts through? No wonder
they were stolen.


Maybe they were dressing gowns. She recalls two months of
radiation treatments, how she undressed in a little room
and put on the regulation smock (though to their credit,
the facility offered varying shades of pink and blue). She
usually just left her clothes on the floor there for however
long it took.


The gowns that were stolen were wedding gowns, she
reads. "They've stolen the last wish and dream and hope of
someone who is terminally ill," the charity's director says.
She has the picture now. Maiden women who no longer
cared about Maidenform bras, marrying longtime lovers, a
cot wheeled into the hospital room so they could spend a
few nights together on what some ignorant society page
editor called a honeymoon. The men wear a rented tux. The
women wear their favorite wedding dress, photographers
rush in to snap three or four pictures before, one by one,
each woman returns to bed.


It's bad luck to marry in someone else's wedding gown.
Even if the couple's still happily married. Even if it was
your mother or grandmother's gown that you sometimes
used to play dress-up as a child. Even if the marriage was
cancelled and the gown never worn. It's as if inviting the
Angel of Death to the celebration, even if the one who dies
is just the bride's estranged father. Besides, her mother
married in a blue pantsuit. Her father, even then, wore a
suit marked portly.


Wrong again. What happens is that the charity sells the
donated wedding gowns to raise money and fulfill other
dreams. But what other dreams could there be, she wants
to know? An elderly breast cancer survivor still sees her
father in dreams. A divorcee wants to go to Fire Island.
And the remarried ex-husband of a woman down the hall,
who still comes around to see his son each weekend, agrees
to pick her up after surgery.

Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.