Laying Out a Yellow Dress the Night Before First Grade

She sleeps. You're pacing, tidying
the corners of her room. One loveworn giraffe
near the dresser, a flattened ankle sock
by the door. The sock, the color of crowded chicks
you watched in the coop this morning.
Peeping, vibrating, one great mass
of parentless fluff, the chicks fed
from their new trough. Small beaks.

Such businesslike eyes. They circled one oblivious bird,
her crabbed foot caught in the water dish.
She hadn't hid the smear of red. Chirping still,
the sweet chicks frenzied. You sat frozen,
one hot hand to your mouth
until your husband found you.

Tomorrow morning, your daughter will ask you
why not the red dress.
You will say there was a stain.

photograph: "Naptime, 1989" by Sally Mann

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