Second Daughter Song – Jody Burke-Kaiser

We pace out in threes,
slippers on stones,
hems whispering at heels.

It is back of the throat dark,
a forest, a courtyard,
a cottage lonely and beset.

The trick is old,
a coin behind the ear,
a game of shells and pearl.

I taste blood in my cheek,
lock my jaw,
lock my knees.

You know your part, choose wisely,
marry well,
live through the night.

My left hand sister, sunlight in a glass.
Spun gold hair to her hips,
yellow silk skimming

all the places your palms crave.
The box she offers
smells of apple pie and money.

You will wrap your thick fingers
tight round her wrist, and pull
her up onto your horse.

Tomorrow she will come home bloody,
throw your heart with the others,
even you know it’s true.

My right hand sister, grey
as a soot mouse, cloaked
crown to boot lace in secrets.

Moonlight and starlight
keep their hands to themselves.
The box she holds, dull as lead,

heavy in hinge and hasp,
hides every lost key, the cure
for every poison,

water in the desert,
just the right length of rope,
plain white bread, and a map.

For her you will
dismount and lay by your sword,
surrender your knives.

I am the breath between them,
the pause before you decide.
The mirror where you check

your smile for spinach.
“Fairer than the first ” you say,
as if it were my name.

As if you cared enough
to name me.
Once when you rode up

I put flowers in my hair,
and once little laughing bells.
But now I stand still.

The one handed box I hold,
wrist to elbow in nickel bracelets,
is full of silver by tradition.

It doesn’t matter.
You have never looked.

jburke-kaiserJody Burke-Kaiser was born barefoot in the Appalachian foothills to a family long steeped in storytelling and sarcasm. She has an MA in literature from Boston College, and an MSN in midwifery from Marquette University. Her work has appeared in The Louisville Review, Rhino, Exact Change Only, After Hours, BrainChild, and Pirene’s Fountain.