Totem

dust IV
   Here, her mother said, pressing something into her palm.
   A pinch.
   A pinch, breaking skin, spreading blush and heat.
   She looked down—her palm now tattooed with a tangle of dark glyphs; a concert of spirals, curlicues and arabesques. The glyphs pulsated, a beat almost setting them in relief against her skin.
   Mother, she said, raising her eyes—What have you given me?
   I gave you—her mother said, staring deepsong into her daughter’s liquid eyes—I gave you my history. It’s a small thing, but I wanted to pass it on to you. Pass it in to you.
   Amazed, the daughter stared at the cursive totem monopolizing her palm, and tried to conceive of how much history her hand now held. A future recalled, a past foretold.
   She closed her fingers, screening history, and opened them, a revelation. Again and again, open, close, hide, reveal, keeping time to wounds. The rapid fanning of joy and sorrow made her dizzy.
   Are you okay, her mother asked, brushing stray strands of hair away from her face.
   Yes, I am. Thank you. Thank you for this gift. Are you—
   The daughter’s throat seized up; she stared down at her shadowed hand.
   Am I what, dear?
   Are you leaving?
   The mother nodded, gravity-thick, and kissed her daughter lightly on her forehead, a cool imprint of lips, a fugitive echo, before she faded, a trick of light expired.
   The daughter dug glassy nails into her palm, testing the reality of the history she had inherited, and as the pinch, sprouting thorns, moved from her palm to her heart, she recalled vividly how the water had risen so quickly, and how the dark, fierce and weightless, had risen with it.
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About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of two novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale and Raking the Dust, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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