My daughter's hair grows long
over the birthmark at the back of her neck.
She's been through what we've all been through
and emerged from crying.
I wonder what preexistence she began to forget
when her bones formed in my womb.
She wants to be reminded
again and again of giants and castles.
She learns the different positions
of her grandmothers' hands when they pray.
One grandmother says she mourns at the birth
and will rejoice at the death.
Turning tears into bead work, she counts prayers,
her eyes fixed on a place beyond this world.
Her Cherokee grandmother sewed a beaded bag amulet
to hold the umbilical cord,
and saved the white shell charm
from the cradle board.
There are omens she remembers
the smell of, they come that close.
How do I teach my daughter
to find her way back,
apart from my womb next time?
The afterbirth buried in placenta hills
presented squash, the sign of womanhood.
My daughter was born smelling like the earth.
She will be reborn in water warmed in my own mouth.
I will tell her that brothers and sisters
in garden tombs gave us cellars full of olives,
grain that dies in the ground, and sweet grapes.
The oil, bread and wine we make
are the signs this life can give.
Deborah Quigley Smith has published poems in Melic Review, Long Pond Review, Sequoya Review, and Poetry Miscellany, as well as other print and online journals. She has an English degree from Harding University and currently lives with her husband in Quigley's Castle, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In addition to poetry, Debbie writes international thrillers, one of which was recently selected as a semi-finalist for a national prize. She volunteers in the Community Writing Program, mentoring students on plot and character.