This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Stephanie Erdman, is from Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester, released by Main Street Rag in 2019.
I used to sit at my mother’s vanity
and primp before the glass, fingering her dainty
ornaments and peering at familiar strangers
smiling from their ornate frames.
I was an only child, confident in my position.
I knew the story of my parents’ lives,
marked before my birth and after.
No limits hampered me.
I could be anything I wished.
Then my fingers found a hidden drawer
tucked into the bottom of my mother’s jewelry box.
Triggering the latch, I saw a golden chain
coiled on the velvet lining of the drawer,
tiny likeness of a Torah scroll.
Inside, a scrap of prayer conferred protection
on the one who wore the charm, which had to be
a child, considering how miniscule this was.
I cupped the necklace in my palm and scrambled
down the stairs to ask my mother whose this was.
But when my mother saw the necklace,
her mouth opened and closed
without a sound. Then she said,
“For the baby boy we never had,”
told me these were gifts
for boys, but not for girls,
who didn’t get the parties
boys did at their birth.
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