Capitalism Ritual

Rosa Alcalá

The boutique owner
pulled from racks
variations on the same
pricey and shapeless dress
and as I tried them on
she whispered into the fitting room,

“I wanted to burn everything I wore
the next day,” and let me go
into the cheap cold night
to borrow a t-shirt and skirt

from someone’s giveaway
pile. I was rehearsing
the ritual of shedding and
casting off, to the underworld
and to the developing. “She who keeps
a dress perfectly suited to the burial

of the mother, will never break down
behind a curtain” should be a

Later I walked through any store
and bought the first thing
I saw. It’ll change your life
the sales associate said, as she rubbed
the $40 cream into the back

of my hand. It just sinks
into the skin.


A Daughter's Mourning Dress

I want to dye
your house dress black
and wear it
for a year
I want to wail
for all the women
kept from the public square
in official displays
of mourning
I want to do it
when the cashier asks
“did you find
you needed?”
I want to claw
in that moment
my chest
sucking every polite
around me
into my animal grief
take what you want
my mother is dead
my father is dead
take as payment
a scrap
of this dress
and she’ll say
ay, mamita
ay, corazón
and hand me as change
a relic of an old black smock
she keeps beneath
the coupons
I’ll have in my cart
condensed milk

to sweeten
the coffee
and more sugar
for the full-fat yogurt
I won’t schedule
I’ll let it wander
I’ll be the woman
dragging her snot-soaked
rags through mud
and across
veined marble
my hair unwashed
leaving its odor
in lieu of anthem
I’ll inconvenience everyone
I’ll do it
for the cashier
her fray as flag
leading my rebellion
for the girl who
wears her hair
over her face
like a funeral shroud
who grieves for
the freedom
she’s never had
to walk without worry
to owe no one
a smile.