My Mother’s Clothes

Pascale Petit

The air was full of Gitane Filtre, her reflection

transformed by the spray that lifts from torrents,
the wardrobe-door open, her clothes pristine.

Some were in polythene, preserved in the mist
from the day they were worn; a blue and peach suit

striped with Iceland’s primeval landscape
where fire and ice hiss under Northern Lights.

She told me about her year in the Indian Embassy,
unwrapped a sari deep as the Gokak Falls,

charged with rust-red debris. Its many mirrors
retained faces of her admirers.

Right at the back, trailing along the wardrobe-floor,
her bridal-dress was a river shot with scales of salmon.

Next were négligées, subterranean springs
cascading down slopes of mountains,

then a dressing-gown which towered in the frosty depths,
its cataract of ice fastening at her throat;

an emerald trouser-suit with matching silk blouse
was a secret chute from the South of France

where she’d tried to make us a home.
I fondled the ruff, its underwood trickle.

After that, there were no more choice materials,
only dull tweeds, sober crêpes for the mature woman,

modest falls in the Welsh hills where she’d settled.