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leaving the house & my mother tells me

change your dress     she says

it will attract attention         she says

not like other mothers

who worry about bare thighs and catcallers


but my dress goes down my calves

has sleeves that can be tugged down my wrists

& my mother still does not want me                 to seek attention

imagine going out in this dress & becoming

a bloody clarion call                     for all the bad things                 to come

a boar-head spirit following my back

while i sway in the wind like a matador’s flag

a long-tongued ghost laps at my silk skirts

until they stick to my shins

as i wait at the bus stop

& watch the faded orange paint chip away

far away             a dog howls


my mother     she says         your lipstick is too red

&                         you should throw it out

i have ten of them now         rolled in a drawer

rust & ruby & rose                 cream & velvet & gloss

i paint them on

watch               watch

this scarlet mouth     & my scarlet nails

in a long red dress     i stand at the bus stop                 & i wait

Natalie Wang is a Singaporean poet. She has been published in Fairy Tale Review, Cordite Poetry Review, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, amongst others. Her book The Woman Who Turned Into A Vending Machine is a collection of poems on metamorphosis, myth, and womanhood. You can find her at
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