China Cabinet

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To celebrate National Poetry Writing Month, I attended a poetry workshop on Sunday. One exercise was to write a direct address poem to something on a shelf in my home.

China Cabinet

You passed hands through generations
the repository of aged and foreign gifts
a family’s prized dna preserved in amber
wood, curved, glued, etched and oiled
your beveled doors and skeleton key guarding
treasures from childhood’s inquisitive fingers.

I remember you, china cabinet children
those exquisite painted faces
skin cracking and seams parting.
I cradled your infant limbs
your flopping head, the ties binding you
lengthening and loose.

Your hair was shorn from a stranger
bound remnants of a life long dead
red silk fusty and ivory fading to rust
sewn forever around you.
But you are not forever as neither am I
nor the mothers who dusted these shelves
or polished this silver.

We will come to clay again, I before you
and you will collect my past in your vault
of family antiquities I no longer recall
for you are all that remembers the dead.
You are all that remains of the dead.

111 thoughts on “China Cabinet

  1. jademwong says:

    Spooky poem but enticing. I had to keep reading, even through the goosebumps. That photo btw only makes everything creepier x_x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so tickled that some readers have found it creepy and spooky. You weren’t the only one, Jade. That wasn’t my intent, but I love it that everyone brings their own experience and interpretation. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] wrote this post, and popped an image in I found a little spooky. Then Allie, told me about Doll Island. The myth […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ali Isaac says:

    Beautiful, Diana! You are a woman of many talents!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. inesephoto says:

    Beautiful poem! I think it is wonderful that things live longer than humans do. They connect generations, they pass the memory.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A wonderful poem that fits well with what my husband and children call my ‘family museum’ which is my home. Now, I’m hoping for some interest in those children to take my museum. Family heirlooms don’t seem to have much meaning to millennials.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sacha Black says:

    Beautiful poem, but I’ll be honest I’m a little afraid of China dolls! I had to avoid the photo!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I love the line about coming to clay. Really nice work!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. olganm says:

    It makes you think, doesn’t it? I can’t write poetry and never had a proper china cabinet in the family but it’s a perfect image. Thanks, Debby.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for the visit, Olga. I’m not a poet either, not compared to some of the spectacular work that I read on WP. But being creative and trying new things is fun, regardless. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. Have a lovely weekend. 🙂

      Like

  9. A wonderful poem. Sounds like the workshop did the trick. This was inspiring. Well done. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Aquileana says:

    Beautiful poem… your words recalled me of a China Cabinet my grandma had when I was a kid… It had ornaments and crockery, but for me it was a magical cage…
    Thanks for sharing. . All the best to you, Aquileana 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. stephie5741 says:

    Great poem. And I love your choice of items!

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Graceful and stylish! Love the personification, a beautiful relationship depicted here…”We will come to clay again, I before you and you will collect my past in your vault”. I enjoyed reading your poem:)

    Liked by 2 people

  13. ‘Family prized dna’ indeed!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Annika Perry says:

    In this modern age of minimalism so many of my family and friends have reduced their collections and decorations to the bare essentials, however I find my belongings, ornaments a comfort, each one carrying a story, a life within it. Your poem expresses this sentiment beautifully, hauntingly even – as I hold copper pots left from my grandparents, I recall their lives, imagine them as young; a tangible reminder of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the lovely comment, Annika. These tangible things do connect us to the lives of our ancestors. I too like to imagine them in younger years, selecting the items, holding them and caring for them. Someday that cabinet will be my daughters and I hope it does the same for her. Thanks for reading my poem 🙂 Have a lovely day.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Kev says:

    Very nice… and I love those dolls in the cabinet! 😀 Btw… your review went live today. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve now cleaned up a few relatives’ and friends’ places after their passing. The poem reminded me of that strange nostalgia I always feel in a situation like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Lovely piece, Diana. It’s nice to have a few pieces from the past to help you remember people in your family. Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

  18. balroop2013 says:

    This is a lovely poem Diana…nostalgic as well as carrying a fragrance of bygone era, which we cherish. I have very clear memories of my mother’s china cabinet, into which we loved to peer, yearning to hold that precious china into our hands. As children we didn’t understand the value of those priceless tea cups…they still haunt me in my dreams.

    You are a brilliant poet Diana, please keep writing more poetry. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It seems a few of us have those childhood “don’t touch” memories of china cabinets and the fascination with the magical heirlooms they held. I’ll stick with prose, Balroop, but its fun to stretch a little now and then. Happy writing, my friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. This is a great poem, and I really enjoyed it. Antique objects really do have their own stories and a passage through time. I actually just reflected on this very subject. I also don’t think of myself as a poet, but I push myself to write everyday and poetry is much shorter than a short story, lol. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. joannesisco says:

    My sisters and I had the task of cleaning up my mother’s belongings after she passed away. There were so many objects that we remembered well from our childhood, but sadly we didn’t know the story behind them, or why they had been treasured. It had never occurred to us to ask and now it was too late.

    That’s what your poem made me think of.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I really do like this Diana! It does make you think about what would eventually happen to the contents of people’s china cabinets over time.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Sean P Carlin says:

    That’s quite lovely, Diana. I think more writers of fiction ought to branch into other sub-disciplines — particularly poetry — if for no other reason than to broaden their palette and flex different muscles. I used to write poetry quite a bit in high school (and later in college) and have been considering attending a good workshop on the form myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. C.E.Robinson says:

    Nicely done, Diana! Your poems tells a unique story of lost history. It’s a wonder why those stories were not passed down through the generations. I like the idea to put your poem in with the China dolls. That tells something! Their sweet faces hold a lot of mystery. 💛 Elizabeth

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I have been challenged to write poetry by our writing group mentor, James Nash (a published poet) and produced some reasonable pieces. But, I’ve no idea why a poem is good or not. I just thought this poem is terrific. The last verse is very profound without being pretentious.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Sandy. I really don’t know whether this is good or not either. It was the best one from the workshop so I just figured I’d throw it up here. It’s always fun to try new things. Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Carrie Rubin says:

    This is a lovely poem, and I enjoyed reading it. But I have to admit, those dolls creep me out a bit. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Awesome write. Love your description of the dolls.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Well done, Diana! I agree, you should write more poetry. It’s amazing the things we keep and pass down, especially when we consider the history of those things. There’s always a story behind them, and if we can remember the story, it just makes those heirlooms more treasured.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. I think you need to write more poetry… wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. I love the poem, but I am really getting creeped out by those dolls. Normally they don’t bother me, but those dolls, I think I’d go insane with them in my home. It’s like they’re watching me!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. This is so special, what a wonderful memory! I too have these special things that have seen great grandparents, grandparents, mom and dad! love this

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I’m so glad you have those family treasures, Lynn, especially knowing a bit of your story and how dear your parents are to you. Do you know the stories about your heirlooms? The next time I see my parents I’m going to squeeze them for all they remember 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Nitin says:

    This is beautifully composed. And had layers of meaning inbetween. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Judy Martin says:

    That was a lovely poem Diana, and I love the story it told as well. Nothing lasts forever. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Beautiful poem ❤ I especially love how you ended it.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. I have so little of those remnants from my family’s past. Many were discarded after my mother died. Sad. Your poem is perfect and captures the essence. Wonderful. 💘

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Van. That’s so sad that your family heirlooms were discarded. My brother is less sentimental about old things, and to me it isn’t really about the things but the connections to the past. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  35. babbitman says:

    Lovely & thought provoking!
    It’s interesting how objects have been passed down, particularly from 19th to 20th centuries. I wonder how many of our own possessions-in-cabinets will end up as treasures of our grandchildren and beyond. Like my model Star Wars TIE Fighter? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your model Star Wars TIE Fighter will definitely be an heirloom as long as no one is allowed to play with it! As kids, we were rarely allowed to open the china cabinet doors, which added to the mystique I still feel today. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  36. Al Lane says:

    There’s a wonderful, wistful tone to this. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone obviously agrees with you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  37. joanneeddy says:

    Lovely, as always, Diana. I love the permanency of the china cabinet contrasted with the greater longevity of the dolls, and poignantly shorter lives of the human caretakers of the cabinet. It brings memories of my grandmother’s cabinet, which though it only held china and glassware, had a pheasant on the top. I would stare at it, fascinated by the colors and the bird’s amber eyes. Every now and then my uncle would lift me up high to stoke the pheasant’s silky iridescent breast feathers ignoring the atmosphere in the whole of her house that said,”don’t touch, nothing here can be touched.” Thank you for the lovely poem! Jo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! That was my experience too, Joanne. We were only allowed to touch under supervision and it was always with a sense of awe and wonder. I still feel that way on those rare occasions when I open the doors. Thanks so much for reading and the wonderful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  38. I think you should tuck this poem in there. Let future generations read it, too. This is a heartfelt and beautiful poem, Diana.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Frank says:

    This is beautiful – intimately personal yet timeless.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Love the repetition at the end. Love the repetition at the end. It really gets the message over.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. I love the line “for you are all that remembers the dead” – how often we look upon the histories of our families and more, and yet we don’t know them. Sometimes, I truly do wish the inanimate could speak and tell us the secrets they hold. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Russell. My family has some interesting history in other parts of the world that I wish I knew more about. Yes, it would be cool if the relics of the past could tell their stories! Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful week. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  42. The V Pub says:

    Diana, I loved this piece, and especially the way the relationship turns at the end. The doll sits silently, from the past and watches as we age and eventually pass. It’s somber, yet lyrical at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, thank you, Rob, for the lovely comment. So much history is lost as the generations turn, sometimes all we have are these mysterious relics. I wish I knew more about how they came to my family. Have a great week, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  43. I have my mother’s dolls. I love how you expressed this

    Liked by 2 people

  44. Bernadette says:

    Your very well written poem certainly gives the reader the understanding of the doll’s antiquity and our short time of ownership.

    Liked by 2 people

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