In a Desk Drawer

At the bottom
of my desk drawer
a tiny clay figurine,
the sculpted image of a girl,
unpainted, sightless
one skinny arm
broken at the elbow,
the other limp and useless.

This is my daughter,
in her thirteenth year.

In the same drawer,
seven baby teeth,
a lock of magnificent golden hair
lost in treatment.
Each day, I open it
telling myself she is safe.
I run my forefinger
along her body,
twisted into an S,
head jammed between legs,
a contortionist
or victim of an evil spell.
I count each single vertebra,
bony pebbles
protruding from the clay.
I wonder what she is thinking.
Sometimes I long to touch her,
try to lift the crooked body
from its hiding place.
Dungeon and tomb.

It is much too heavy
to move.

So I trace
the stony path
with my forefinger,
and close the drawer.

***

Henry I. Schvey was recently selected as a finalist for the Tennessee Williams Poetry Contest in New Orleans. In addition to poetry, he writes plays, creative nonfiction, and scholarly essays on American drama. His adaptation of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is scheduled for production in fall, 2012. He is Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.

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