Mother's Vanity

For my daughter

by Julia Wendell

Her familiar scent,
captured and stoppered,
I now set free
in a few escaping vapors
of lingering Joy
when I bring the perfume taper
to my nose. While the powder puff
disintegrates in my hand.
It's her initials HTL
etched into each—
gold-plaited hairbrush,
comb, shoehorn, mirror—
stationed on a glass tray,
passed from mother to daughter,
and now to the current keeper
of what binds us:
bristles, soft as a baby brush,
tortoise-shell teeth too brittle
to comb out any recent gnarl
from my long, straight hair.
The hand mirror, fogged and scratched,
obscures both flaws
and virtues. I polish each
and re-arrange them
as function becomes decoration,
mementoes of an era and its women
for whom even beauty's instruments
needed to be beautiful and costly—
"Your grandmother's vanity
will be yours one day," my mother
would remind me.
I think of that promise upon waking,
greeting the delicate herd of gold,
before searching my bathroom mirror
for something else to salvage
and pass down to you.


Julia Wendell's newest collection of poems, Take This Spoon, will be published in 2014 by Main Street Rag Press. Other works include The Sorry Flowers (Word Tech Press, 2009), Dark Track (Word Tech Press, 2005), a chapbook, Restalrig (Finishing Line Press, 2004), and a memoir: Finding My Distance: A Year in the Life of a Three-day Event Rider (Galileo Press, 2009). She lives on a horse farm in northern Baltimore County with her husband, poet and critic Barrett Warner, and rides and competes event horses when she's not writing poems.

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