Free Verse

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Of birth marks, omens and signs

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.

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