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ROSETTA ALLAN

Photos I have worn

 

white

tucked socks

there –

a dress

homemade

Dad?

ring of lace

wish

 

The Gothic arch of the church door frames the small group. A returned serviceman from Vietnam, a very pregnant and elated woman wearing a short silk dress, flowers in her cropped red hair. Two girls, one so small, won’t smile.

 

blue

polyester I

look –

this way

pleated skirt

cotton shadow

the dark

room

bra straps

 

My hair falls naturally in the school photo. I had forgotten the cowlick. I often wondered about cow tongues, how people could eat them, and pig heads in the pot with cabbage and dumplings. How a cow could have licked my head as a child. The only curl I owned.

 

brown

waistcoat

lie –

down

black tie

white

shirt, won’t

hurt

 

There were many ideas about achieving the best body fit for jeans. They came in one shape only. We would wear them in cold baths, stitch them up the sides and lay on the floor sucking in our lives, pulling the zip with a coat hanger inch by inch until the button fastened. Stomachs ringed red at the end of the disco.

 

china doll

sew

hound’s-tooth

free –

tomatoes

winkle-pickers

burgundy

burning – lips

 

Everything is black and white. It didn’t occur to me that a thick leather belt covered in studs was too punk for the job interview. I got it anyway, though the boss liked pretending to prick his hand on my hair. I guess it didn’t matter. I was in accounts. It’s all numbers and I was out of sight.

 

green

cotton cargoes

beret

black boots

they – my

by myself

camouflage me

red

 

She was a third-generation soldier. I didn’t think of myself as a soldier. I didn’t mind blisters, the boots were really cool. I didn’t mind the pack on my back half my body weight, or the plank-hard bed. I struggled with the toilets with no doors, and her spray starch turning me to cardboard.

 

white

strapless satin

Dad?

painted shoes

hold

it – almond

roses

surprise violin

He was late, shopping for red socks on Queen Street. They had to be red. Apparently these things matter. I am unpracticed at holding a smile still. While he’s not looking I stop to breathe. The first photo he bites his lip. My veil takes off in a gust. I wear a blue bow for the baby. Who were all those people?

 

blue

polyester

out-sized

watch

cowlick – cotton

button

up – tight

 

The school dental nurse is not good enough. We pay for private perfection. Each fissure sealed. Each crooked tooth braced. We buy the best toothpaste, the best tutors, the sports gear, the saxophones, guitars and pianos. I iron tea towels and purchase a library of women to teach me to cook.  I slip into the neighbour’s backyard when she isn’t home with the hand mower.

 

black

cap

tassel – proof

pink hood

we – they

draped black

hand

it back

 

I have learnt not to linger at mirrors. Perhaps this is why all new photos have enough voltage to give me a small electric shock.  They earth me. Two certificates framed on the wall declare that I have the ability to persevere. Apparently I do have a left hemisphere. Now what?

 

sepia pinks

yellows

blues

wish

black denim jeans

silk generations

rings of

snap

 

Our son’s teeth grind away in the night. It never occurred to him that rocking up half an hour late with no shirt on was too punk for a family portrait. We took it anyway. His tattooed arms wrapped around our blue-eyed grandson. The dogs weren’t bothered; they lifted their heads on command.  I wish I knew about dopamine earlier. I am learning how to smile. It’s all about numbers and I am still out of sight.

 

 

 

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