Cambodian Silver Napkin Ring: for my Mother

in memory of my mother, missionary to Cambodia 1927-1954

Six intricate patterns etched

into this silver napkin ring,

all alike, yet not just quite, each shaped

and poked by grizzled peasant hands

in a far away land, in a far away time;

unnamed, unknown, an artisan at work. 

*

My mother stands at his market stall,

fingering the labyrinthine motif,

mirror of her own complexities,

her apprehensions, questions, joys, all

twisting through a life she can hardly imagine

to be real; birthing daughters

as she swelters in the tropic heat,

as she wraps her tongue around

strange words—Preahyesaou sraleanh—

“Jesus loves”—a love at times elusive

in a world so crowded with beliefs and fears

as ancient, as mysterious as the royal ruins

in the jungles of Angkor Wat.

*

She bargains with the seller,

counts out piaster bills, fondles

the ring, her luxury, rare treasure 

in a life severe and spare.

*

The ring now holds my napkin;

I stroke the tarnished band, trace

the patterns, irregular, complex;

the peasant’s life?  my mother’s life?

my own?  our fingers touch,

our stories merge, a tangled,

twisted circle of life.  

 

 

12 thoughts on “Cambodian Silver Napkin Ring: for my Mother

  1. This stabbed me in the heart with both beauty and sadness, a poignant reminder of those who have shaped our lives, who are gone and yet still very much present. Thank you.

  2. This is a beautiful poem, Carol. I never knew your mom was an ‘m’ in Cambodia! Did you grow up there? I love how you wove together imagery in silver, with memories of yours and your mom’s. Thank you for sharing. Happy Mother’s Day! Elaine

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Hi Elaine, Yes I did grow up as an MK and spent years both in Cambodia and in a missionary kids’ boarding school in Vietnam. A rich and complex tapestry–the silver patterns do so reflect that. Happy Mother’s Day to you as well and blessings on your ministries.

  3. Oh so beautiful my friend – and a wonder-filled tribute to your mother! Hope you have a blessed Mother’s Day in all of life’s complexities – and we know they are many! Blessings friend!

    • Thought of you, my Friend, when I used the word “labyrinthine.” So grateful to be able to share with you some of the complexities of our lives! Happy Mother’s Day!

  4. Beautiful, Carol. I think I know just enough of your journey to appreciate the “complexities” alluded to here. I hope it is a a sweet day for you. Love you, bj

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