on days when I feel more like a woman
than a man, I remember that my mother
keeps a brown nub buried in her jewelry box,
under strings of pearl & heaps
of mountain silver. little heart, wrinkled —
remains of my umbilical cord, tucked
in a small leather coin purse — nestled
in folds of rice paper, dotted with spots
of its oil. this once - conduit: dermis crusted —
the death of flesh, exemplified. as a child,
I begged to see it, balked at the funk, prodded it
with the pillow of my fingertip, gentle.
when I asked her why she preserved it,
like a prune, she just laughed & said something
about keeping me close until she dies.
you’ll understand, when you’re a mother.
now, I am of childbearing age. mornings,
I stare at my handsome face in the mirror
as I check for lumps in my breasts. on such days,
when I feel more like a man than a woman,
I wince at the thought of being a mother.
& on days when I don’t feel like a woman
or a man, I think about the brown nub that,
for a time, connected me to my own —
imagine how it might now crumble, after years
buried in her jewelry box. maybe tomorrow
I will call her, ask about the little heart.
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