My poem “Work from the Permanent Collection” has been published in Tertulia Magazine (April 2008).
Work from the Permanent Collection
Kathleen M. Heideman
Exhibit A: “Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing,” a first edition,
with a three-inch hole I’ve drilled through its emptiness.
Later, a funeral photo of my great-grandmother: the child
she died with, in labor, two boxes of lace and dark foreheads.
Further: a room of wounds. Bones of boars from grandfather’s swamp,
a rosewood pipe his lips knew well, two dozen can-openers
his second wife stole from grocery stores (her ten identical hats,
and the boxes of Rit dye she hoarded against a life of white sheets).
She was a lot like me, except I’m no thief. I save things:
a shelf of rusting mis-cut keys, shark’s teeth, sea-licked glass,
seven pounds of shell shirt buttons, a hundred stained maps,
enough white stones for Hansel to find his way home again.
I’ve pulled horse hair from antique sofas, I’ve kept my teeth.
I have cow horns, steer horns, the horn buds of heifer calves.
I have hair —my own, and more, a ponytail I found in the street,
half-burned candle nubs, mason jars of winter wood-ash.
Not all rooms are dark. The Third Floor features mandrake roots,
fruit pits, bundled stems of passion-fruit, sweet buds of tigerlilies.
I have the seeds of a common catnip, bristle-pod of moonflower,
small eyes of the wild vine that blossoms white on fire-escapes,
and there’s lungstone and soapstone and bloodstone and shale;
fossilized backbones, calcified stems; St. Christopher charms
and St. Anthony pins; hundreds of needles in a leather purse;
my own toenail clippings and cork floats. More in deep storage,
and more in mind. I’m the Curator, finder-keeper-loser-weeper,
a guide floating lonely among fish skins, a tackle box of barbed hooks,
bobbers and sinkers. Conflicting desires, I mean. Coming inside, friend?
I’ve got a box of wishbones I’m saving for you….
Let’s send the guards home early. Let’s touch everything.
Photo: Kathleen M. Heideman, 1990.