For Passing Down to Daughters by Emily J. Mundy

The cedar chest lives in the living room. 
I am six, cracking its polished skull open to the light
asking Mom why it smells so funny—
              Cedar protects the delicates
               like fabrics and old papers from being eaten by moths 
               keeps everything dry from mold, fungus, oils, fumes. 

You know this part in the story. 
She doesn’t come back. 

A decade bustles by. 
The shrine of objects 
inside the chest lay still. 

Dad moves the heavy thing upstairs 
to her once library, unsure how to bury it. 
He draws the curtains closed, keeps them that way. 

At sixteen, I pay it a visit,
prying apart its dusty jaws. 

The smell is the same—vanilla on fire,
a candy beach with no one on its shore. 
It has swallowed: 
               a miniature pair of booties and tiny floral t-shirts – mine 
               a nest of beaded sweaters – hers 
               a spread of bone cold bracelets and mismatched earrings – whose? 
               a lock of ghost-white hair 
               stick-figure crayon drawings picturing Mom and our dog under the plum trees
               lunch notes she wrote for me 
               an ancient, cinderblock-sized bible, tearing apart at the cheeks
               a mess of photographs in which all eyes are bright

I inspect each item in the window light.  

The last fabric I find 
at the very bottom of the wooden breast
is wrapped in tissue paper shrouds—

               her limp, lace wedding dress. 

Emily J. Mundy is a Seattle-based poet who believes in writing as a force that heals, transforms, and illuminates. Her work reveres the mystical nature of language and often explores spirituality. She is proud to have made her home in the Pacific Northwest, and hints of this landscape reverberate throughout her poems. Emily is the creator of The Poetry Séance—a quarterly performance and workshop series curated to enliven poetry shows and embolden local writers, each season at a time. She shares a realm with her two cats and one beloved typewriter.