Things My Mother Kept
On the floor of the entryway
To my parents’ apartment,
A Bath & Body Works bag.
My father gestured to it, saying
“There’s your mother”
As we walked by.
The brown plastic box of ashes
Fit as if it were made for the
Blue and white checked paper bag
With convenient carrying handles.
On her dresser,
A melamine plate I made for her.
Remember the Make-a-Plate kits?
We spent one first grade class
Preparing for Mother’s Day
Drawing and coloring earnestly
Green-roofed house, purple door
Bright yellow sun, black cat
The year, for some reason. 1974.
On her bathroom counter,
My earliest ceramic art.
Sushi plates before their time
A rectangle with mama and baby fish
A square with baby fish alone
Each and every scale rendered.
And hydrodynamically challenged
But drawn with painstaking care.
In her closet,
A sweater I bought in high school
From the Tweeds catalog.
Cropped cotton cardigan, aubergine
Sleeves too long, as always, for me.
I used to raid her closet
Secretly, I thought
Not knowing, or forgetting,
That she raided mine right back.
In her locking desk drawer,
Made by an artist I had known
With his wife as family friends.
I once asked my mother
Why we never saw them any more
And she said, ever oracular,
“Life is short. Things happen.”
In the bottom of a wine cabinet
In the dining room
In a compartment I never knew existed,
The plexiglass chess set he made for her
Which I’m sure she told my father
She had thrown away.