November 6, 2009


none of the clutter in my uncle’s last days
or the lemon meringue pies or white cakes.
Sundays, the grown ups slapped cards
and I watched thru clear French doors
or imagined oceans, the shells, the green
Chinese rug. Even then it was dissolving.
Clarinets, velvet, a Chinese table with
playing cards inside, coppery. In the
dream, the last person is gone, is missing.
Each room has been cleaned and packed,
a box of never used syringes, clothes
tied with strings. Where are the paintings
that cluttered walls. Even the painted scene
in the hallway is covered over. Echoes.
No blinds. I must be here to look around
for the last time but I’m not sure why.
Sterile. No one fighting over the Passover
table. The stained glass gloves, the ones I
always wanted as a kid, gone. I was promised.
I thought they’d be mine. So little to show
the life that was here. Bare brass beds stripped
as so much. Labeled boxes. So much medicine,
medical supplies. And who are these strangers
who enter the house silently, expressionless,
without a word. They are dressed as if for
church or a funeral and quietly collect items
from every room. Three or four boxes at a
time and then, a few minutes later, 3 or 4 more.
I’ve never seen them. They’re taking the last
of what belonged here. I go to the room my
mother had, the smallest, being a girl when
being a girl didn’t much count. Broken
furniture, a desk, at least there’s papers—
maybe something my mother wrote. I’ve lost
so much. Have I come too late. Why didn’t I
look for what I could grab, a memento. These
papers in my mother’s drawer, I cram them with
an old shopping bag. It’s late, Saturday. Her
room is shambles but there’s an old I think
a flapper dress, rainbow fishnet. It’s torn but
it’s gorgeous. It’s what I love, all I have
of her

by Lyn Lifshin

*Lyn's website:


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