Souvenirs

Lynn Domina

Lynn Domina

This poem originally appeared in Red Cedar Review, Vol. 14 Iss. 1, 1981. For more information on this author at the time of this publication, and other online issues of this publication go to: https://d.lib.msu.edu/rcr

in twenty-five years,
when you climb the steps to your attic,
looking for a china plate
your mother gave you,
or the quilt
that has been in the family
for five generations,
you may come across these frogs,
this family,
a mother and children.
they will be in the same box
as the old love letters
and trinkets
from every city
each of your friends has ever visited.
will you wipe the dust
from their backs,
wondering which of us
gave them to you?

will you realize
how i carried them next to my body,
protected them from customs officials and border police
through five countries,
wishing, finally, that i had bought something steel,
something neither of us
could break?

but there is nothing quite so delicate
as blown glass,
as tiny animals
either of us could crush
under our thumb,
though i have been told
thinking of delicacy
and me together
is like getting lost
in a house of mirrors,
a thousand images,
and not one of them accurate.

but i have never seen frogs this small,
although when i was fifteen
our back yard was invaded
by tiny toads.
every evening, these toads crept to me,
and i cupped them singly in my right palm,
like i would cup a daughter,
if she could ever be so small.
when you are not as large as anyone else,
when a raindrop is as big as your knuckle,
anything could be delicate.

the night after i bought these frogs,
i sat with two women,
beside the canale della guidecca,
our feet in the water,
the canal patterned with light,
rain trickling under our collars.
we'd seen san marco,
and photographs
of the whole place flooded in winter.

men leaned against the bridges,
"gondola, gondola," seductively,
their blue and white striped shirts,
their straw hats,
trying to sound american.

for all americans go to venice
for the canals, san marco,
for the murano glass.
yet, i bought only one small
delicate family,
to slip in my pocket,
to carry next to my skin,
to bring to you and say, here,
close your eyes,
hold this family
in your right palm.


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