Elegy of a Dress By Riley Zahn

Elegy of a Dress

Hello Riley.
It’s been a while.
Did you miss me?
Don’t answer that,
we both know you did.
Remember the first time you wore me?
You slipped my soft cotton shoulders over yours,
and it was
The Heavens didn’t open up,
Angels didn’t sing,
you didn’t have an Epiphany.
You felt ok
for the first time in weeks.

Do you remember the second time you wore me?
That black dress in July was an interesting choice.
It was the first time you wore me in public.
Remember that feeling of victory?
You couldn’t have done it without me
You were flying that day.
You were open sky, and wind through your hair,
riding currents of agency, wherever you wanted to go
The prison society tried to lock you in
looked like a miniature doll house from such great heights.

Then you landed, and realized:
The prison is not as small as it looks from up in the air.

Remember all the times you were misgendered?
What did they have in common?
Don’t answer that, we both know what it is.
You looked down and I wasn’t there.
Do you think that’s a coincidence?
Do you think you don’t need me?
Silly girl, femininity is the ransom
You pay in exchange for your womanhood.

You don’t have a choice.
You just traded one prison for another,
Don’t think of me as a coffin that cinches at the waist
And flares out at the bottom.
Think of me as an obligation,
that accessorizes so well your joy.

Besides, who else is going to hide your body?
Conceal how wide your shoulders are
Obscure how narrow your hips are?
You don’t love yourself, you love the illusion I’ve made for you.
You are nothing without me.

But fine,
go ahead,
wear that flannel shirt.
I’m sure your date will gender you correctly without me.
I’m sure she’ll see you as you want to be seen without me.
I’m sure you’re be woman enough
Without me.

By Riley Zahn


Riley Zahn (she/her) is a trans woman, poet, educator and graduate student from Mankato, MN. She spends her time learning, unlearning, playing nerdy card games, and wondering if the people who work at the Chinese Buffet place are judging her for how often she eats there alone.

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