The Mother of My Mother's Things
I stare around the table.
I wait for the same answer to come.
It was not the answer I expected,
But it was the answer my profession expected.
The best compliment.
“A good mother.”
One blink and I’m sad
All the women,
Who don’t know they could be more.
One breath and I’m sad
Because I’m not one of those women
Maybe not even a woman
Because there won’t be anymore
I moved it,
My father built it.
I emptied out the papers
Mostly never meant to be together.
It’s not my chest,
But it’s empty.
So I fill it.
Once given things.
Except for my mother’s chest
I place on an awkward
Slant inside my father’s chest.
I’m sorry, something so valued
Sits inside so unevenly.
Pearls and gold and links.
Names and initials.
My mother’s chest inside the chest my father made.
Neither one are really mine.
I lost the stories before I lost
Pearls and gold.
“What’s this?” a little voice asks.
“A jewelry box. Savta Elissa’s. My mom.”
I speak all the words my niece knows.
I’m not sure she knows the words
Any better than I know the stories.
“Yes,” I nod.
“My sister, Ori, died.” She opens the lid and slides her finger across the pieces
Her mother arranged the night before.
“I know. It’s sad when people die.”
On my lap rest my mother’s hands,
The ones that placed the bracelet
With my mother’s name
Around her mother’s wrist.
She closes the lid.
There is more space in my chest,
But it’s not empty.
I abandon the jewelry box on the floor
Alongside the unfinished imagined play.
My niece returns to her story.
I turn back
Towards the closet
And the overflowing chest.
“A good mother.”
I will never be a mother
Of my mother’s things
If I don’t know
Where they go.