Good girl

                         "...each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name"
     ~ G. M. Hopkins, "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"

You, my dead and dying, follow me from city 
      to city— you take up very little space 
but hoist your luggage in envelopes of water
      that leak from time to time. You hover
near my shoulder like a fever, like you did  
      when I was a girl, making sure I finish  
every morsel on my plate. In wistful tones 
      you tell stories about the neighbors'
children: how last summer the eldest took
      her parents on a cruise down the Rhine,
how the son surprised his mother with a new
      car in the driveway, engine running,
its hood adorned with a giant bow. You hide  
      my pillbox behind the cookie tin and make  
me want to drink all the ice water in the fridge, 
      looking for a small slice of moon. I promise
I will sweep the dust out from under the furniture
      and sort through boxes of paper marked
Important; but first I need a nap. A faint
      clicking like castanets means I've
disappointed you again. I'm sorry I pawned
      the silver candlesticks and ruby pendant.
The kitchen cupboards are filled with mugs
      from different restaurants and my bankbook
with smaller and smaller numbers. You're always
      telling me my life can still be good, better
than what I left behind. After all these years
      you stroke my hair and ask me to pick out
the ghost-grey from your heads: you'll give  
      me five centavos for each one pulled out
at the root so I can be your sad girl forever  
      but please— leave my daughters alone. 

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