Thinning

When did it start, the stockpiling
of new with old and dirty clothing,

the thirty-plus umbrellas gathered on
the flimsy stair railing? And in every

cubby of a hutch that once held highball
and footed ice cream glasses, punch bowl,

oval party plates, the kind with a round
depression at one end on which to rest

the bottom of a cup— decades’ worth
of sundry papers, magazines saved from

another time; plastic bags stuffed with used
water bottles. I remember a mint green set

of Jadeite mixing bowls, their cool swirl
pattern. And a Pyrex flameware saucepan

with a metal ring and spout, put to double
duty as cake pan. A door to door salesman

once sold her a pair of waist-high carved
Chinese cinnabar vases; she did not bargain,

did not check if the price was fair. What drove
my father crazy: the way she took such time

adjusting clothing, hair, makeup while he sat
in the car and ordered his driver to honk

the horn. When they were gone, a pink cloud
of fragrance left behind on her vanity; powder-

puff, uncapped bottle of Chanel No. 5. It hurts
to ponder where her rings have gone, the ones she

loosely wore on increasingly arthritic fingers:
if they’re among the bagged detritus of the years,

or if their stones lie in a musty pawnshop drawer.
There’s so much I despair of being able to account for,

or ransom. At what cost: an overhaul, a grand redemption?
This is how fortunes we never had yet dwindle. This

is how the years flense the body: layer by layer, until
what’s left is a sheath strung, slight, on bones.

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