for Eleanor Farrington Wills Newmiller Sidman

And that is why people make poems about the dead.
And the dead watch over them, until they are finished.

Larry Levis

In the hall mirror, the living room folds into miniature reflection;
no one seated there. But I see you, Mother, breezing through
the front door carrying packages of stories, trials, fruits, au revoirs.
You are off on another flurry of errands to fill the hours.

In the attic I spread your letters before me; words spilling out
in bundles over the summer of 1929 when the world took a dive,
and you took a boat to Europe. So breathless, the notes from Paris—
Oh, the paintings, the sculpture,
the young men, oh— and their fine white suits!

In the kitchen, I give my condolences to your pots and pans.
How wide were the recipes of your expectations
entertaining the Luddeckes, Kings and the Churches.
Excellent, tasty, a little less salt.

In the bedroom a jumble of jewelry bickers
amber with turquoise, rhinestone with gold—
nothing the secondhand dealer would take off my hands.

Your closet emptied, your bed stripped, I set bags out
for the Salvation Army truck, try to value
the salvage of all you have touched—
the purple teacups, the monogrammed towels.

The night you died I spent in your guest bedroom,
curtains blowing in the soft night wind. Slowly
their panels formed into your lace nightgown,

and your head appeared, glowing as if filled
with gossamer thoughts. Your face as real as it was
when I fed you slivers of ice and brushed
the last tear from your eye.

You were as thin as the leaves of the bougainvillea
climbing the house and as ready to quiver and fall,
and now you hovered by the bed until I thought
of the words to soothe you. I said them.

It’s all right, Mother,
I’m going to be all right. You can go now.

And without another word or gesture of regret,
you did.

Published in Over a Threshold of Roots, Sandra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2007