Karen Cesar


                                                                 first a large circle
                                                                 to establish my boundaries
                                                                 wider and wider
                                                                 I draw the mandala
                                                                 from the center outward

                                                                 like this
                                                                 she tells the hairdresser
                                                                 to a picture
                                                                 of overlapping leaves

                                                                 grandma used to tell—
                                                                 the possibility
                                                                 my father was conceived
                                                                 in the back of a buckboard

                                                                 do you remember
                                                                 a green rhinestone heart
                                                                 with a tiny gold key?
                                                                 the ring that you gave me
                                                                 when we were both six

                                                                 a picture of my mother
                                                                 when she was young
                                                                 holds my place
                                                                 in a book
                                                                 she never would have read

                                                                 laying her head
                                                                 in the palm of my hand
                                                                 she falls asleep
                                                                 before the needle
                                                                 can stop her heart

                                                                 at Montmarte
                                                                 you were a pickpocket
                                                                 with casual skill
                                                                 unraveling the sleeve
                                                                 where I wore my heart

                                                                 junk jewelry
                                                                 stored in a shoebox
                                                                 the glitter
                                                                 from my first pair
                                                                 of ruby slippers

                                                                 this autumn eve
                                                                 my body
                                                                 and mind float free
                                                                 in a river of stars

                                                                 the childhood
                                                                 she was too carefree
                                                                 to record
                                                                 new hoarded in memories
                                                                 too fragile to share

                                                                 the stained sleeves
                                                                 of his favorite dress shirt
                                                                 folded back—
                                                                 he feeds me warm berries
                                                                 from a styrofoam cup

                                                                 yet again
                                                                 the urge to be perfect
                                                                 winter quail
                                                                 the last in line scurries
                                                                 to catch up

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