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The Traits You Take
By Emily Linstrom
Somewhere in your ancestral villa
lives a woman who slices persimmons
like she was born to handle knives
and maybe she was once like us,
knees skinned from an earlier childhood
incident concerning a tree and a dare
now waiting with her body bent
above the window so her nipples
showed a little, so her man
might come along and choose her--
that's how women get into these messes,
how mistakes are repeated just to prove
they were choices after all:
that beds and bodies and mended dresses
make up a legacy, wailing babies
and only the faintest memory
of your toe in his mouth, the first undressing,
a night without ritual.
Look at me, and tell me
you don't feel from time to time
the mediocrity of the women
in your blood--
the real estate they push,
their defiance of the extraordinary,
the what makes you so different, girl?
Remember the bronze parts
buried deep beneath the house,
the eyes and feet, the uteri
of some ancient tribe,
like a dried lake of idols?
Your mother dug them up with her hands
and planted them in his bowl of blackberries:
that was her magic
and he was only a man,
what will our votives be, darling?