Capitalism Ritual

Rosa Alcalá

The boutique owner 
pulled from racks 
variations on the same 
pricey and shapeless dress 
and as I tried them on 
she whispered into the fitting room, 
“I wanted to burn everything I wore 
the next day,” and let me go 
into the cheap cold night 
to borrow a t-shirt and skirt 
from someone’s giveaway 
pile. I was rehearsing 
the ritual of shedding and 
casting off, to the underworld 
and to the developing. “She who keeps 
a dress perfectly suited to the burial 
of the mother, will never break down 
behind a curtain” should be a 

Later I walked through any store 
and bought the first thing 
I saw. It’ll change your life 
the sales associate said, as she rubbed 
the $40 cream into the back 

of my hand. It just sinks 
into the skin. 


A Daughter's Mourning Dress

I want to dye 
your house dress black 
and wear it 
for a year 
I want to wail 
for all the women 
kept from the public square 
in official displays 
of mourning 
I want to do it 
when the cashier asks 
“did you find 
you needed?” 
I want to claw 
in that moment 
my chest 
sucking every polite 
around me 
into my animal grief 
take what you want 
my mother is dead 
my father is dead 
take as payment 
a scrap 
of this dress 
and she’ll say 
ay, mamita 
ay, corazón 
and hand me as change 
a relic of an old black smock 
she keeps beneath 
the coupons 
I’ll have in my cart 
condensed milk 

to sweeten 
the coffee 
and more sugar 
for the full-fat yogurt 
I won’t schedule 
I’ll let it wander 
I’ll be the woman 
dragging her snot-soaked 
rags through mud 
and across 
veined marble 
my hair unwashed 
leaving its odor 
in lieu of anthem 
I’ll inconvenience everyone 
I’ll do it 
for the cashier 
her fray as flag 
leading my rebellion 
for the girl who 
wears her hair 
over her face 
like a funeral shroud 
who grieves for 
the freedom 
she’s never had 
to walk without worry 
to owe no one 
a smile.