I hope you don't mind If I call you Irene—
for the single "I" inked In front
of your surname printed on the iron-on label,
affixed to a green acrylic dress
with white honeycomb flowers.
After I pull the dress From the tangle
of hangers on the metal rack, holding it up
to me like I'm a paper doll, taking delight
in its plastic pearl buttons, I point
out your Sharpied name to my friend,
who whispers, Those tags are used
in nursing homes, to keep patients' clothing
straight after laundry day.
This dress looks like it belonged
to an Irene—it has real personality, by which
I must mean that it belonged to a someone,
belonged to more than just an initial, "I."
It means "peace," the name I've given
you, in the hope that's what you've found
wherever you've gone without taking your dress.
Perhaps, Irene, it's more for me: I search
for the same, feeling a certain trespass
in wearing this playful vintage thing—its flammable
fibers, its broad collar—knowing that, for everyone,
breath is a garment shared and shed between us.
Lisa Mangini holds an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University. She is the author of the poetry collection, "Bird Watching at the End of the World" (Cherry Grove), as well as two poetry chapbooks and a fiction chapbook, all released in 2014. Her work has been featured in McSweeney's, Weave, 100 Word Story, Words Dance, Silver Birch Press, and others. She is the founding editor of Paper Nautilus, and teaches English composition and creative writing at handful of colleges in southern New England.