She handed me her heart —

a red ceramic music box

she painted for me, kiln fired for me

in the heat of summer, in the dark

of basement, with tiny brushes,

shimmer chalk & glaze. Mamma

with her hair ragged back by gingham. Hands

knotted, tucking curls under cotton. Hands hinging

the lid & notes hammering. Mamma —

held out a heart that was hollow

as an empty cup, frigid as porcelain

beneath my palms those nights I stayed up

gripping the rim & waiting for the moon

to pass right through. My mamma

was girl, is a sunset at dawn, will be

an artist waking to breath’s echo in the sink.

This heart is a dam. The melody is a dam.

Her daughter is a damn opening

of the lid. She tells me the notes will play

a thousand times before the battery dies & she will live

for as long as I can make it last. Mamma —

molds mortality out of clay, leaves me

with a heart that defines the future

in terms of ration, in terms of choosing which days

are worthy of a play. Tomorrow is now

lifting the lid & listening for the time

when silence answers back.

Her heart is a fragile thief

I immediately break.

Lorrie Ness

Lorrie Ness is a poet writing in a rural corner of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she can be found stomping through the woods, watching birds and playing in the dirt. Her work can be found in numerous journals, including THRUSH, Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 and her chapbook, “Anatomy of a Wound” was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.

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