So now I have tokens, left in the event she should return to claim me, in all my imperfections—a child who burned recipes, who resisted sitting on her bed to share details of her life, a life I thought she’d disapprove of, but maybe I would have been surprised.Was I the fairest object of her love all those years when I felt myself homely, lonely, my face too dark, my legs too thick? Did her longing eyes seek me? Was my own birth wondrous to her. I doubt it. She was alone with two young sons, my father at sea, as he would be for so much of my childhood. I’ve searched for her mother, who never returned, who never claimed her in word or deed, but maybe I should have concentrated more on her. Her true heart, her own plain virtue.
At the Foundling Museum, a spyglass, a hairpin, the handle of a penknife. Padlocks, a tiny black hand pierced with a hole for a ribbon, a handful of coins, pierced, notched, worn thin by thumbs stroking, stroking, stored in the archives. I have My Sin, a tweed coat,a memory of Mrs. Nobody on her chair in the kitchen. I have a hole on my sleeve the shape of a heart but no scrap to match it with and the sound of a creek running underground on its way to the sea, with everything of my mother in it, and nothing. I have every regret for the way her life began, and ended, a motherless child, so far, so far from her home, no one looking for her in the listservs, among the dry records of Vital Statistics, no one, no one but me, my face against the glass case of all those unclaimed tokens, those stories begun perhaps in love and ending in sorrow.
–from “Tokens”, published in Euclid’s Orchard, Mother Tongue Publishing, 2017.