Quiet and Fragile Try on the Same Romper

They’re just now getting used to
not having to be seen all the time, you know.
When the first woman goes into the dressing room,
she imagines that she’s drowning, that fabric
will try to eat her whole just like her designer said it would,
that maybe she should get used to being a soft
slice of cherry-sauced cheesecake forever.
And then she puts the thing on. It’s…fine.
There is nothing special one way or the other.
It holds her like a well-written backstory.
She takes a strong gasp of cotton and starch and
lavender perfume, and the gasp is the first sound
of freedom she has ever made with her own mouth.


The second woman is in the other changing room,
running her hand over the linen and sighing
like it reminds her of a time before time broke.
Not like a thing that she lost. Like a truth
burgled, tarnished, but returned. The faded
gray shade of it is dimmer than what
she was written in. It feels…fine.
A bit loose compared to her last uniform.
It sits around her like a compassionate retcon.
She lets it settle on her scars until she
forgets the time, every hour of it.
She sighs with young breath, and it is all hers.


Afterward, they go for froyo, watch a corny action movie
(still their favourite), carbonara at a new place for dinner,
a long walk home, shopping bags swinging high in their arms,
even if we never see them wear their spoils out.


Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien is a writer, performance poet, teaching artist, and game designer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions and the 2020 Ignyte Award for Best in Speculative Poetry, and is published in Uncanny Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Strange Horizons, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is the former Poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. His debut poetry collection, Can You Sign My Tentacle?, available from Interstellar Flight Press, is the winner of the 2022 Elgin Award.

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