a few stragglers remain.
a few stragglers remain.
The picture of the two of us,
pulled from my suit-coat pocket,
leans on my dresser.
Square with rounded corners,
faded blue ink–
Kodak May 1980–
printed on the back.
I scanned it for my lock screen, too,
so I can see myself
leaning up against her in the slanted spring light.
The first few days after
Mom taught me how to die
but when I walk outside,
leaves are turning and
afternoons are darker now.
Our home is a pale shade of blue,
one you might find looking west in the spring
minutes after sunrise,
or in a robin’s egg whose green tints
have been replaced by gentle grays.
It was once a deep red,
more readily apparent in recent years
from the street-facing, sun-bleached southern side,
where spots of peeling and chipping have grown
past neighborly size,
reflecting the same inertia
that has kept me from replacing
the almost imperceptibly dripping basement pipe.
I peel an orange –
the fruit itself is disappointing and dry;
my son pushes the lawnmower
back and forth across the lawn,
glancing to me each time he makes a turn.
It’s the first time I’ve stood back so far.
vivid yet feeble
evening’s rays only skim
deeply hardened snow
I’m finally looking into the cardboard box
I brought home from my mother’s house late last month;
The clementines she had insisted I take
and perched on top have long since been eaten;
it’s been otherwise untouched
sitting in the corner of the yellow room.
Two pairs of my infant pajamas–
The yellow, corduroy pair with the embroidered lion,
the faded white and green night dress.
She had remarked on the drawstring she had sewn into the bottom–
how it was still there–
the fold-over sleeves to keep me from scratching myself
as I slept in my crib.
My white shoes, too, laces gone,
but still with their impossibly stiff bottom;
my grandmother’s blue-and-white Canton ware,
wrapped in the 1975 Daily News of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Just before I left,
we had sat on the basement couch flipping through
faded Kodak prints, square with rounded corners,
taken before we moved into the house on the hill.
We paused at one where I wore that night dress,
my sister and I standing
in the deep darkness of an evening east window.
There were others, too, from that forty-years-ago,
and she told me again about each one.
We had such fun, she said,
I’ve scolded my son for riding
the old green bike
(the one with training wheels that used to be his)
when he runs to get it before his little brother can,
riding it gleefully away from him.
Today, though, his brother wasn’t home;
so he pedaled slowly
around the driveway, pulled gently
at the duct-taped edge of the handle
as he rode.
I heard him talking softly to himself and
humming as he made lazy ovals
in the bright sunshine.
He kept going
until his sister called to him from the porch,
asked him what he was doing.
I heard the first words of the story
he began to make up,
then turned away so I wouldn’t
hear the end.
It’s supposed to be raining this morning,
but I awake without the sound
of small drops trickling from maple leaves or
spattering the old tin roof
outside our bedroom window –
either would have muffled the clinking of
spoons against the edges of
glass cereal bowls that
filters up from downstairs.
Yet well past the hour when
I often find myself alone,
you are still beside me,
I watch your breasts rise and fall
under the softness of your light blue camisole,
its narrow strap rising over your left shoulder
into a blur of light from the south window.
Your birthday is two days from now –
early forty-something this summer –
I should get up and settle the children’s argument,
plan for a gift.