Memory, with Ship Engraving

Oh old-fashioned cookie tins lightly
engraved with a three-masted ship in full sail 
on a rough ocean, or sometimes a Currier 
and Ives shed and farmhouse with smoke 
curling from a chimney—I can't remember 
the taste of those thin biscuits layered in fluted 
paper cups inside, only that they were meted 
out with care so they could last beyond novelty 
or our hunger for something that smelled 
vaguely of another land. But after the last
crumb was shaken out and the bottom 
wiped clean, my mother and aunt 
vied for one to repurpose into a sewing
box: embroidery floss, hooks and eyes,
little books with rows of needles stabbed
into their raised cardboard shelf; and on top,
their prized pair of scissors that I should never
use, even for cutting paper. When they sewed
together, heads bent close under a lamp, I put
a thimble on each of my fingers in turn, or
sorted buttons. They were so young then;
not yet feinting or swinging, the waves 
of rancor in the years ahead not yet a sea 
pressing its claims on the shore; the vessels
they bore— bringing either sustenance or
ammunition, spools of thread, bales of linen.


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