At my parents’ house nothing is in boxes, nothing is packed.
A loose-leaf photo album. A jar of sticky coins.
A plastic Disney cup. A tin of pet ashes.
I package them up or I throw them out,
Eating them, making them mine.
My grandmother’s house.
It was easier. My mother and I found diaries and pill bottles, religious medals,
Tissues and hospital socks. The potpourri that was kept in the foyer.
Boxes and boxes of navy-blue loafers.
I wasn’t overwhelmed.
I did save a pewter Dalmatian and a one-tusked elephant made of ivory.
A map of the Israel she had once visited.
A tiny black bible written in Lithuanian.
Easier because my grandmother never prepared her life for her children.
She burrowed within them instead,
Eating away at their soft spots.
After we cleaned out my grandmother’s house,
My mother and I had one last meal at the Seven Star Diner.
Scrapple and eggs and strong coffee.
We ate in silence as we watched dust-covered men come and go
In the other half of the room, which was closed off with plastic,
The space expanding
The yellow cord frayed then failed, and the cast iron sash weight, the size and shape of a cob of corn, fell, my brother’s finger caught beneath the pane, his face turning blue, his blood coming out in thick round drops. Now all that remains is a single copper splotch the size and shape of a pumpkin seed on the wall along the corridor, just above the white wainscoting.
Shouldn’t we keep our blood strong under our skin? Some women lose it in the fleshy pulp of their periods, sour and fat. Not me, not yet. I am still waiting. Instead, as I wake in the morning to my husband playing the piano, to the puppy mouthing my fingers, to the feeling of my own body curving and full, I think about lapis lazuli and the ancient manuscripts, about Mary’s robes, about the paint that remains on a dead woman’s teeth, how blood is also blue.
Across the room, I hear my father sleeping, his mouth wet and empty, a clapping
as he snores, the bathroom light left on. Things happen, and only small pieces remain, enduring the chew and scrub. I don’t notice until I prepare for the funeral, the slice of blood on my father’s bathroom towel, how it has forgotten the blue, how it refuses to brown, how it retains the red.