by Dori Appel

The collar is streaked in back,
a badge of failure, but not hers—
she only bought the dress today
at a rummage sale. Now she sees
what comes of bringing home
strays with their histories of
use and disappointment. It was
the cloth that moved her,
a pattern of faded flowers
like violets overcome by heat,
but in her hands the dress
folds over on itself as though
concealing a greater shame.
Holding it gingerly,
she turns on the washer and
quickly tosses it in, then
inspects a pair of candlesticks
unearthed at the same event,
globs of red wax clinging to them
like a pestilence.

About the Author

Dori Appel’s poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies, as well as in her collection of poems, Another Rude Awakening. A playwright as well as a poet, she is the author of many published plays and monologues, and was the winner of the Oregon Book Award in Drama in 1998, 1999, and 2001. Visit her website at www.doriappel.com.


During the Great Depression, many women used the cloth from flour or feed sacks to make clothing for their children. Manufacturers caught on and began using colorful patterned cloth.
Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.