Grandmother's Bureau

From the time I was seven,

the top drawer was the drawer

of my fascination.

Each year I'd return

to study the treasures there:

old rings and bracelets,

a pocket watch, a silver box

with jewels set in the top,

hairpins and lace,

pearls and stays, sachets

of sweetly smelling things ...

and above, wedged into the edges

of the bureau mirror, the photos:

her sisters and cousins, great aunts

and uncles, and my grandmother's parents

gathered at her grandfather's grave

before they left Poland for America.

I'd stare at them for hours, these images,

my ancestors, people I had never met

and could barely imagine -

until there, in the center,

I noticed one year,

rising up out of the mottled, silver mirror,

my own face reflecting back at me

from a past that aimed both to claim

and set me free.

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