March sky the color of smoke;
         Carla’s red hair blazed, a torch song of hopeless hope
                  as she powered her wheelchair through the Vintage Fair
to help me find a wedding dress. I’d told her
         she didn’t have to come, but she’d made a face:
                  “Left on your own, you’ll get something dowdy.”
The dying have no time to waste or tact to spare.
         Love rends the veil. Her chair — which I’d
                  disassembled and stacked in the trunk of my car that morning,
then reassembled in the parking lot —
         kept knocking into tables of elbow-length gloves,
                  suits from the forties with nipped waists, hats
with dotted netting. We passed up gauzy gowns
         that might have fit me when I was in my twenties
                  and doing this for the first time. Veterans of the broken vow,
way beyond those first, pearly griefs,
         we declared ourselves against white, now
                  and always. Also virgins of any kind.
See us then, flecked with sweat and in search of color,
         barging ahead on foot and battery-powered wheels
                  toward marriage, toward death, on a middle-aged
mission to find something elegant but not matronly,
         not girlish either, nor overly ruffled or plunging,
                  some elusive combination of hubris and humility
befitting the occasion. That’s when I spotted it, a dress
         the color of a flamingo, a big blush of perimenopausal
                  desire: “Over there,” I said. “That’s the one.” And it was,
fitting snug over the unguarded breast
         while forgiving all that history below the waist.
                  We fingered it a little wistfully; it was old but had survived
the decades better than we had. It was feminine,
         ethereal, and tough, tougher than most marriages,
                  having been sewn when things were made to last.
And so, despite Carla’s labored breathing and
         the perennial problem of finding a toilet big enough for the both of us plus
                  her chair, it was pleasure and blessing and omen that this one task be easy,
a pink flower of rightness, full-skirted and voluptuous,
         in the middle of so much unfixable. So we two,
                  too fluent in the language of regret,
paid in cash and sped through the parking lot,
         the empty dress in its bag
                  flapping in the empty wind.