This poem was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi, who wanted to know about the lullabies Maryam grew up with. Belonging to multiple cultures can be a challenge when not everything gets represented.
It is the music box which catches Maryam's attention,
the porcelain ballerina poised above her silvered plate
in her stiff skirt and perfect pink slippers,
her gilt hair in a tight bun.
The music box is a clever device
powered by khthonios, (1)
the nether-fuel perfect
for combining aspects of Earth and Air.
Maryam presses a dark fingertip
against the porcelain circle set into the oak base,
hearing the faint click as the mechanism activates.
The tiny keramos automaton comes alive (2)
and dances across the mirror,
singing "Lavender's Blue" in a high sweet voice.
When the song ends, she returns to her former pose
and freezes in place.
Maryam tugs open the little drawer in the base,
and yes, there are several extra buttons
each storing a different song:
lullabies like "By Baby Bunting" and famous ballets
like "The Sylphide Calls the Sylphs" from La Sylphide.
With a sigh, Maryam closes the drawer,
for such things never hold the songs she loves best.
She remembers her mother's voice,
dark and bittersweet as chocolate,
singing the cradle-songs of Africa
that are all Sarah has left of her own mother.
These are the memories from childhood
that Maryam treasures the most,
rocking and rocking in her mother's vast lap
to the sound of those sea-whisper lullabies.
Tonight Maryam will ask again,
and Sarah will shake her head
saying that her voice could never do justice
to those songs in a language that neither of them speaks.
Maryam will keep asking, though,
and someday Sarah will agree,
or someone else will agree ...
and then there will be a new dancer
glazed in manganese and iron
with her dark hair braided into a proud crown,
as graceful as a black swan,
singing the songs from a different shore.
* * *
1) khthonios -- nether; one atom of ge (Earth), one atom of aer (Air), and one atom of aether (Quintessence). This is one of the two exalted fuels in alchemical science.
2) keramos -- ceramic; consisting of one atom of aer (Air), three atoms of ge (Earth), two atoms of hudor (Water), two atoms of pyra (Fire), and one atom of aether (Quintessence).