Buying My Blue Dress

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December 15, 2013 by The Citron Review

by Helen Ruggieri


The day I bought my blue dress, I imagined a Guatemalan woman looming it with her dark fingers, her face flat, so closed not even her daughter could read it. I could see her needle threaded with the bright embroidery of tradition; I could hear the relentless click of the shuttle.

She cast a spell, a shadow, as if poverty were sewn into the dress, the orange flowers embroidered about to explode, the blue under the half-moons of her nails bleeding into the dye of the fabric.

While I browsed, a young girl in an orange shirt ran from the store with what she took and a clerk ran off after her, bringing her back, crying, promising never to do it again, promising to work it off, begging the owner not to call the cops, not to call her mother.

All the shoppers stopped, looking harder for something to buy until the owner decided, until she called the police or let the girl go. We waited, the audience; the shoppers. I stood in the three-way mirror watching me in the dress, the shoplifter who loved beautiful things, and behind us the dark woman who makes them, deciding in the mirror, as each of us had, what we would make or buy or take.

Whenever I wear that blue dress, it wavers, the way a flame does in a breeze, and the orange breaks through old window glass –

my reflection wavers,



Helen Ruggieri has two recent books – Butterflies Under a Japanese Moon and The Kingdom Where Everybody Sings Off Key (see She recently edited an anthology of writings about the Allegheny River, Written on Water, published by Mayapple Press.

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