I could start this poem with how I chose to wear this dress,
a peculiar shade of green that makes me think of my mother.
I could tell you how she, the former virtuoso,
turned her hand to sewing in her later years
closed up in an upstairs room
with Stern or Perlman scratching away
on an old-fashioned record player
and her own violin listening, silent in a dark corner of the closet.
Apropos of nothing, she chose that shade of celadon silk
because it looked like almost spring, she said,
peering out at the second-story sky
where somber-looking clouds spat out snow
into the Kansas wind.
And she told of a soiree she played one sweltering day
in the Dirty Thirties when women of status
might flaunt their indifference by hiring a violinist
for afternoon tea,
and my mother was glad for the pittance;
her father had lost his job.
"Imagine," my mother said, biting off a pale-green thread.
"That woman didn't even offer me tea. And I was hungry, too."
Then she and her gold wedding band both blinked hard
as she guided the needle left-handed,
laying down a row of infinite, invisible stitches,
a silent green concerto in C minor.
I could tell you how my mother would lie down
and die in the next room over--
not that day, but another day like it.
And no, she was not wearing the celadon dress,
but we found it there in the closet, next to her violin
along with other dresses: azure, mauve, lavender, rose.
It was not almost spring. It was the dead of winter.