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by John Grey
(Johnston, Rhode Island)
by John Grey
I can’t believe some woman’s haggling over a dresser
that’s been in our family for generations.
The silk paintings I’m not sorry to see go.
But we’re talking heirloom, the people in
those faded sepia photographs.
More stuff is arriving every moment,
out of the rooms and onto the front lawn.
I’ve barely time to see what new memories are up for sale:
old books with faintly yellow pages,
ceramic frogs, paper with letterheads from a bankrupt company,
my grandfather’s favorite rocking chair,
some knitted doilies, a woven Welcome sign,
the bird cage that hasn’t seen a winged creature in twenty years,
and the doll house, once my sister’s most prized belonging,
now nothing more than an eye-catcher for a stranger’s daughter
who kneels eye-level with the tiny bedroom.
My seventh year is spread before me. Next up my eighth.
Joke toys that made me laugh. My sister’s tutu.
A loom. A guitar missing the bottom E string.
And 45’s. So many 45’s. All perfectly scratched and missing sleeves.
So much of our lives can be had for a song. Even the songs.
And my stacks of paperbacks. Buffed-up silverware.
Ribbons back from when my sister demanded curls.
And an old Smith-Corona, unlikely to be sold in this day of laptops
but given its one chance for a fresh start
though who knows where the purchaser would ever find a ribbon.
The old man’s business failed. This is my rite of passage.
We all must lower out expectations.
There’s be no more fancy China in a dining room case
No bicycles. No sporting equipment.
Besides, my mother says, I’m too old for that sort of thing anyhow.
She almost bursts into tears as she says it.
She’s seen most of her wardrobe disappear before her very eyes.
And some wedding gifts. Her mother’s Hummels.
My father leans on the lawnmower.
Soon enough, the grass at our feet will not be his to cut.
May as well get something for the stuff in the garage.
To be honest, I won’t miss all this so much.
It’s all expendable. The whining kid can have the lot.
We’ll still be a family, a less encumbered one.
We can start over, pretend we’re starting out.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Tau,
Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River
Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.