Tres Vestidos de las Muertas
by Sylvia Riojas Vaughn

Mother made me a dress of velvety lantana,
roses, petunias trimmed with orange marigolds.
I slipped it over my head, felt fire ant stings,
piercing thorns. The petunias wilted in the Mexican sun.

A Chihuahua licked my wounds, led me to Tía.
She wore corn silk and a pinto bean necklace,
sat at a treadle sewing machine, feet pumping up and down.
Sea urchin spines between her lips,

she advanced the fabric woven
from Gulf Coast surf, salt, shrimp.
She’d plucked out jellyfish, sting ray barb.
The garment was redolent of lime, mango.
Tía’s deft fingers festooned the hem
with tiny shells, driftwood sequins.
I slipped the gown over my head.
She handed me a lipstick of pearl shimmer,
a veil of lacy seaweed. I joined her vigil,
waiting to make the next garment.

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