by Robbi Nester
I used to sit at my mother’s vanity
and primp before the glass, fingering her dainty
ornaments and peering at familiar strangers
smiling from their ornate frames.
I was an only child, confident in my position.
I knew the story of my parents’ lives,
marked before my birth and after.
No limits hampered me.
I could be anything I wished.
Then my fingers found a hidden drawer
tucked into the bottom of my mother’s jewelry box.
Triggering the latch, I saw a golden chain
coiled on the velvet lining of the drawer,
tiny likeness of a Torah scroll.
Inside, a scrap of prayer conferred protection
on the one who wore the charm, which had to be
a child, considering how miniscule this was.
I cupped the necklace in my palm and scrambled
down the stairs to ask my mother whose this was.
But when my mother saw the necklace,
her mouth opened and closed
without a sound. Then she said,
“For the baby boy we never had,”
told me these were gifts
for boys, but not for girls,
who didn’t get the parties
boys did at their birth.
For the first time I felt
I must have been
a disappointment of a kind.
She turned away to fold the still-warm
sheets into the basket.
leaving me with questions I would never ask.
* * * * *
"The Mezuzah" is part of Robbi Nesters new poetry collection (Main Street Rag, 2019).
Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry: a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and three collections, including A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014); Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017); and Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has also edited two anthologies—The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an Ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees--celebrating the photography of Beth Moon (published as an issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal).