My mother sits at her
dressing-table arranging

her black hair into two
smooth columns

to frame the symmetry
of her perfect face–

(people say she looks just like
the Duchess of Winsor–

that gaze, that bearing
of the forever loveliest

girl in the room.) Frowning
into the triple mirror

she fusses with a rogue strand
that won’t stay perfectly aligned.

I must have been
about seventeen.

Over her slip she wears
a pale-blue silk cape

to protect her dress
from any loose hairs.

And to hide from me–
all those long years

the shame of her scarred
chest, her missing breast.