Looking Through My Mother’s Dresser as a Child

By Joyce Schmid

I found a small six-sided box
inlaid with moonlight, glints of rainbow—a
small anomaly of radiance.

Mother-of-pearl, my mother said,
the word itself a wonder—

mother made of pearl/mother of a pearl—
pearl-mother and pearl-daughter—one.

Her father’s gift to her—
her father, dead.

Can I have it when you die?

She gave it to me there and then—at eight—
a year before she finally forgave me

for being born in wartime, colicky and premature,
my father stationed in St. Paul.
When she joined him there,

I’d become a stepchild in her heart.

I didn’t want the treasure yet.
I needed it to still be hers—

a stash of startling beauty
I could rummage for and find

Joyce Schmid’s recent poems appear in The Hudson Review, Five Points, Literary Imagination, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband of over half a century.

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