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  You could have a big dipper   

Dressing for the Occasion by Camille Lebel

CW: Self Harm

On days she has class, she wears jeans--old Levis with a frayed hole at the back hip pocket: nonchalance carefully crafted with a faded red tee against stone-washed denim “You should dress for class,” her mother says. “How will you meet a nice man, looking like that?”

Looking like that, she meets a lot of men, nice and otherwise. She meets them for drinks at corner bars where she wears a dress, candy red. Long dark hair piles above her head, ready to be danced down again. Shiny straps on stilt-like shoes weave vines around her ankles. Silver strands around her neck hold a monarch; it careens across her chest in unhinged flight. “How was the orchestra concert?” her mother says.

For Sunday services, she wears sundresses in soft hues, hair curled and sprayed. Sitting on burgundy-cushioned pews, staring at the body and blood, she joins the whispered voices pleading for grace. “Don’t forget Bible study tonight,” her mother says.

On days she paints, she abandons clothing. Pale, bare skin provides a willing enough canvas. Her favorite brush shines in the bathroom light, its metallic glint reflecting in the mirror. One stroke, and thick, scarlet life seeps down her arm, leaving room to breathe. Her paint flows beautifully onto toilet tissue, an abstract, inkblot masterpiece screaming I am who I am. When her mother calls, she doesn’t answer.


Camille Lebel lives on a small farm outside of Memphis, TN where she enjoys horse whispering and singing to her chickens. Mother to seven, she largely writes poetry in the school pickup line as a way to process special-needs parenting, adoption, evangelical deconstruction, and more. She’s published or forthcoming in Inkwell, Literary Mama, Rogue Agent, and Sparks of Calliope. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @cclebel

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