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Transformations II

And my heart, which came from my mother

is necessary for me in my transformations

–  The Egyptian Book of the Dead


She telling us the story of an old romance –

the soldier who held her heart like tissue paper

near a flame, then left her shivering,

the askes of a letter in a grate.

Daughters listen, wondering “Did she …

Could they have …?”

     my heart a medal on a bright red ribbon

     awaiting presentation to the first

     who seemed deserving.


Telling us of might-have-beens,

the man whose mother didn’t want her

for a daughter.  Even now, the memories distinct

as stained-glass colours – the time he walked her home,

the time … the words …  Daughters nod, imagining

how fathers might have gone

by different names.

            my heart like treetops growing complex

            and involved against a sky,

            the branching art of possibility.


Telling us about the earnest young man,

the stone in the ring, the tears in her eyes,

the wedding that seemed as inescapable

as ironing. Daughters themselves caught

in the tight loom of duty, earnestly making do

in marriages.

      my heart like a withered dug, a dry

            mouth, a stone dropped in a cistern

            to displace water


And how her mother set her free,

saying, “If you don’t want to marry him,

then don’t.”  As though the witch had opened up

the oven door and handed out gingerbread.

Daughters caught in the sharp teeth

of freedom.

            my heart a cracked egg, fragments

            of shell, the drained translucence

            of a caul.


Telling us how the day came

when our father climbed a hill with her,

incurable romantic, and laid a ring in her palm.

(The daughters always wondering, “Did they …?

Sureley the must have…”) And the wedding

when my father cupped his hands for communion

and his bow-tie dropped in.

          my heart a bowl of rice grains

            polished, slipping richly through fingers

            like laughter.


Daughters knew the endings didn’t end things,

weren’t always happy. Still she taught us to believe

in possibilities, in the voices that murmur

our own myths, friendly from the kitchen.

            my heart a scarabeus, carved from lapis

            lazuli, inscribed with our stories,

            coated with gold. 

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