by Maryann Corbett
The clear amber scent in its bottle. Its glint from the top of the vanity:
cut-crystal flutes with a frosted-glass stopper, catching the sun, on her vanity.
The glamorous dreams of our mother, unspoken to curious children,
were sharp as the quarter-moon curve of that bottle enshrined on the vanity.
What were they guarding, what secrets? And how would a child understand them?
And what was I thinking, small magpie lured on by the glitter of vanity?
Wreckage of beauties: the spill. The wet, the gray film on the rosewood.
I was the firstborn, the first to drive thorns through the heart of her vanity.
Painfully, mothers forgive. (On the mountain with seven stories,
how long will the granite of penitence weigh on the spine of my vanity?)
(And what do my children remember? what hauntings by anger and tears
does my memory hide from itself in the metal-bound chest of my vanity?)
Sixty years on, and the stain-mottled dresser now broods in my bedroom,
breathing regret, and my name, and the words of the Preacher: Vanity!