Fifty Buttons

Counting the buttons on the starched
form-fit jacket of the upright Quaker woman
in the cracked sepia photograph,
I wonder if she did the same
each morning as her fingertips worked
slowly from hip to chest to chin,
each whalebone button tucked behind
and pulled through
it’s proper slot.
Her daily rosary,
a devotional to both contain
and create her daily caste.

And later, her day complete,
as she eased each button
back through its more pliant partner,
she revisits the rosary,
performs a less predictable ritual
of self revelation,
her fingertips nimble,
her lips whispering the names
of less tamable forms:
moon flower
languid bend in the river
damp, ripe wind through tall grass.

By Guy Thorvaldsen

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