The Dress paled to a blue, like the oil paint lakes
In the books the nurses read aloud.
Saved for adoption day, the Dress was worn
By the girls whose leaving was formalized
By typewriters and paid typists in two different countries.
Most orphan girls held their breath when they heard
That their new parents didn’t speak Spanish,
The girls’ first land. I, crowned by a fabric bow,
Sensed the fainting of memory and breathed deeply
Behind the screen door. I thought of the dip I took
In my mother’s blood and the heat of the equator I felt
Between her legs. I outran my birth in a stretchmark twist,
An imprint along my mother’s hip that I will not play with.
I heard the nurses’ laughter. I could see them rub the hems
Of their skirts into their bottle-cap glasses while translating
My new parents’ imagination. All the papers were signed,
The background checks conducted, and the photographs
Flipped through. The nurses, calling me by my middle name
Because every orphan girl was named María, pulled the Dress
Over my head and I watched the bow disappear from my hair
Like a boat leaving one sea for the next.
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Maria Fernanda Snellings is a 2015 Sarah Lawrence College graduate and a VONA/Voices fellow. Selected by MacArthur Genius Award grantee Terrance Hayes, she was the only undergraduate finalist for the 2014 Hurston/Wright Amistad Award for College Writers in Poetry. Her translations of Alejandra Pizarnik’s poems are published in The Wide Shore’s 2016 issue.