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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?
Surely they 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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