by Sarah Carey
I give her the feminine gender, this pride
on my sleeve, reflecting sensibility
and taste. Inside the gap of my scapula
she hangs, curved like a womb,
seamed strap attaching her whole body,
hip to shoulder to mine, a line—
taut at times, as when I press my hand
to the base of her sewn buckles,
feel my mother’s fingers, still at the Singer,
hem-mending after fold and chalk.
Other times she bends into my side waist
muscles, as when I sit to listen
as my mother shares her latest skin flare-up,
asks the specialist to work her in, wonders if
advancing years will cause one’s largest organ
to grow thin, or if that’s just what physicians say
to help old women make peace with pain,
or when she leans against me
for a moment, lets me feel her weight.
Bearing all I hold dear zipped, she models merits
of restraint, yet elides a sigh from deep within
her secret walls when I reach down, across,
inside her compartments to claim
my tube of lip gloss, lost key rings,
forgotten change, a pair of shades, a buried pen
grit glistens. I emerge with all my broken bits
to see that everything we carry,
mold ourselves to, wears, fades away.
I think I don’t deserve her,
but I do.
*This poem won first Honorable Mention in the “Poetry for Purses” Competition in honor of Kate Spade and suicide prevention.