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 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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