A Dress for the New Year

Hanoi, Vietnam

I am getting one of those
traditional dresses made:
high-collared, blue silk.
The fitting women race back and forth,
their black cheongsam fluttering behind them.
I haven’t eaten breakfast yet
so my stomach won’t be stretched.
I wander upstairs
for the dead company of mannequins,
but instead that’s where the life is:
the Tailors.
They sit in rows at their sewing desks
in calm trances, a few exhausted ones
resting their heads on the cloth.
I have trespassed, but for a moment
I watch them work.
For how many hours
do they sit like that?
Downstairs
my head pulses from the incense.
I am whisked behind the graying curtain
to have my clothes pulled off.
The dress slides over my head;
my woman struggles with the buttons before
I do them up myself.
It fits like a silk cocoon
and I forget about the Tailors.
Blue for eyes, gold for hair —
my shroud of vanity complete.