Abuela takes good care of her jewellery box.
It was given to her as a present.
She puts her favourite things in it:
Jewellery, coins, shells.
When Elisa and I were little we loved the box.
We laughed as we tried on earrings,
played with shells, admired coins.
Abuela laughed with us.
but now she is gone,
with only the sent of her perfume to remind me of her warm embrace.
Elisa and I don’t play with the shells anymore.
Don’t try on the earrings.
Don’t examine the coins.
We miss her too much;
she should be here.
But sometimes I go to the jewellery box
and gaze at the smooth carvings on the side.
And the memories come flooding back.
This poem was highly commended for Poetry Object 2018
The object of ‘The Memories in a Jewellery Box’ is a container not only for Abuela’s ‘favourite things’—‘Jewellery, coins, shells’—but also for a wealth of treasured memories of Abuela herself. The division between the past, when ‘Abuela laughed with us’, and the present, where ‘now she is gone’, is simply and effectively drawn, as is the figure of Abuela, who leaves only a few belongings and ‘the scent of her perfume’ behind.
As readers we are left, along with the speaker and Elisa, with a feeling of absence; the jewellery box (and the objects it holds) becoming a bittersweet reminder of what can be invoked but not regained.
~ Bella Li, Judge, Poetry Object 2018
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