New Poem/Is it Still There

Is it Still There


The home that warmed you after that winter trip

downstate from Canadian border where Catholic charities

hoarded babies for those without to pick like flowers.


The small, blue house with a thin roof and windows

creaks and whistles, chilling the workroom

cabinets your father built to store memories.


The cherry china closet in the dining room,

where your mother’s Polish tchotchkes stand

among her finest dishes, an homage to her orderliness.


He, a woodworker, she, a nurse, took you and the boy

when you were just toddlers. Though you shared

no blood, you became one another’s keepers.


Family portrait: your brother’s dark curls

so contrast your blonde waves,

and your mother’s deep chestnut coif.


You are only a teenager here, posed

in a blue dress to match your eyes,

but soon you’d be kicked out of the picture.


But brother was the one they could not keep for long:

He fled in his twenties unexpectedly hemorrhaging

under his skull; no one anticipated aneurysm.


Now, in your fifties you live alone,

having survived the war of parentlessness twice,

one more thing we have in common.


But the burden of the house–leaks feeding foreclosure

in an IV drip, stretch marked cement steps

pregnant with ice–is too much labor.


When the snow comes to blanket us in its quiet,

everything is still:

Water hangs mid-air from gutters.


Sharp-edged and glittering winter wears woe

like some silent film star. She’s all contrasts:

Withering and convalescent.


What you mean to ask is not if the house

still stands to her elements, not if it can

distill life, eternally serve to memorialize.


For all that you’ve lost is greater than this,

one small, blue house that cannot hold

your father’s last incoherent words,


your mother’s latkes, alongside her advice

to offer me to those without to be picked like a flower,

the way she and your father picked you and your brother.


What you mean to ask but cannot is this:

Am I still here if I cannot be within those walls,

without the only ones I have known as my own.


Dec. 2015-March 2016




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