More fetching than the gowns
themselves, sail-white
and confectionary sweet—
the stories concealed in
pieced panels, in cascades
of hand-edged, ruffled rows—
the work of savvy tailors

or sentimental brides
whose husbands-to-be
held fast to nylon or
best silk that saved them
as they sunk from sky to

beachhead, from burning
bombers to uncertain
fate in freezing fields
behind enemy lines.  For his
fiancé's dream of a white
wedding dress, one survivor

in a displaced persons' camp
traded two pounds of coffee beans
and several packs of cigarettes
for a German pilot's useless
parachute.  And on the close—
my mother's blacked-out English

street—canny mothers shared
out salvaged fabric for
hair ribbons and christening
gowns.  How distant, now,
that world of rationed goods.

In museum cases, in picture
perfect resolution,
such economy and love
handed on and handed down,
its life and afterlife.