Self Portrait Without Artifacts

Someone is warming her jewelry: the jade pendant from China, the Southern Cross circumscribed by an African continent dangling on a slender gold necklace I gave her when I returned so many years ago. And her wedding ring set with her own and Aunt Tet’s diamonds, plus the 3-point diamond chips for every five of my father’s forty years with the phone company. Someone has her 3×5 Christmas cookie recipe cards, stained, containing marginalia, “bad batch – the Divinity was not divine – 1969.”

Some shade found these things, in my purse, in the back of the cab, where I left it in the darkness. I railed at the gods; I was the rightful owner. But I find I am mistaken about so many things. Though she closed my hands around her jewels when she took them off one last time, I was not yet ready. I thought for wearing. Turns out, for losing. So soon. Not yet, in the ground one week.

Visions of her necklace circumnavigating my country, her ring surrounding my island. Reflected in the mirror, our self portrait. One I thought was mine. Erased by the shifting tide of circumstance. I cannot even make her cookies.

No longer knowing what remains, I do know this: whoever wrote “ashes to ashes” was in on the heist.


This prose poem was written in response to a prompt on Andrew Shattuck McBride’s writer’s blog. Thank you, Andrew, for providing the space for this to bubble up.

4 thoughts on “Self Portrait Without Artifacts

  1. Andrew Shattuck McBride says:


    You are most welcome, and thank you for for the mention!

    I’m so glad that my blogpost led you to a response. I have had things of value to me lost – or stolen – too. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Sincerely, and best wishes, Andy

  2. Laurel Leigh says:

    Jill, what a beautiful piece and more so for me as I well remember the incident that gave rise to it and also have read your stories about mothers over the years. I finally fell in love with my mom after she died and for the first time felt close to her when I visited her home town of Fargo ND. Some of us women are so confused by ourselves and our relationships with our mothers. Yes, if we could only make their cookies! xo

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