you would still bring the jewellery box out:
light wooden and two-tiered.
inside it, a tangled nest of necklaces,
like silver snakes twirled and coiled,
or tree roots grown together.
spread on the bed
where you had stayed for weeks,
its contents would writhe and glint in the low sun;
metal knots tight like your white knuckles,
waiting to be eased apart
with patient, small hands.
i loved to do this for you,
loving best the few gold chains
and pendants with dark, dragon-eye stones.
i wanted to know
where they all came from.
tugging, easing, coaxing,
working and reworking the cold brambles,
you and i,
in the weak winter sunlight;
the rings on your pale hands
slipping and shaking.
with time, the
metallic birds’ nests
began to resolve into smooth strands,
like our frizzy hair when wettened;
and we laid each to rest,
back on the bright-green felt lining the drawers.
then they would slide closed,
and the box go back out of reach.
you would be tired.
in a month or so we would do it again,
when the knots had regrown like weeds;
you had wilted further.
and i often wondered, mum,
how come it all
always ended up
in such a terrible tangle?