I’m five again. Dresses with bows
in the back become an impossible reach.
Mother’s death is everywhere — especially
in speechlessness, in flour bags
beneath dark olives of Daddy’s eyes.
He’s earned this shade of painful pitch.
Phrases that corner her name
rub rocks in the gaping sore, create
a kind of carpet burn when
elbows touch by accident.
My sister tries on all her clothes —
ghostly blouses hang below her shaking knees
like circus tents without their pegs.
She throws them on the bedroom floor
in angry heaps of autumn leaves.
Soon enough we’ll learn to sweep,
pull the weeds where flowers grew.

Every trinket in the house —
from dishes to porcelain cats,
from quilts to tables set for three —
business cards with edges curled
smeared with the ink of her grave.
Her shiny brown piano seat
has cobwebs in its antique joints.
A maid comes in to clean the keys
that seem to shrink like bars of soap.
Soon we’ll plant a fence or two
as if they’re trees and have a place.
He’ll water them at cocktail hour,
watch the fog as it fixes
the absent to nothingness.
I stay in the gloves of my skin.
afraid to window-crack a tear.
Questioning the cauterized
with crayons and an empty page,
I draw her name in large red streaks
as if its lipstick colored gray.
Wedding photos disappear.
Another woman’s furniture arrives in trucks.
I look for a cushion with pins.

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