Friday, June 7, 2019


Cleaning Out Mother’s House

Pull out the papers. Plunk them down.
Pick them up one at a time.
Wince at the weight of paper,
at the weight of words.

I remember the Vietnam Vet
sitting with us on cracked leather chairs
as the other students passed through
on their way to morning classes
in economics, calculus, chemistry.
He told us all that Nixon had done
for him, for his family.

I remember the EPA,
the place where I used to work,
checking for the shift in tense,
subject/verb disagreement,
comma splices.

I remember the day Nixon died.
I watched video of him playing
the piano, playing the same show
tunes that Dad used to play.

The talking heads on Mother’s TV
slap me back into the present.
Her hands like a grandchild’s
piece of pottery rest in her lap.
Her feet in Velcro sneakers
do not reach the bare floor.
She rarely speaks,
to me anyway.

I have to throw out these papers.
Empty this house of more
than just paper. Empty my mind
for what’s to come.

--Marianne Szlyk

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