Ornaments in August

The New Republic

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POETRY SEPTEMBER 10, 2013

Ornaments in August

High on a shelf in the top hall closet,
stashed there ten years ago after she died,
are Mother’s tree ornaments,
dozens of glass-blown globes:
blue, silver, gold—swaddled in tissue,
well organized in a box stamped
“The Dolly Tot Company.”
The box must have brought
a toy to my brother or me, but what?
And which Christmas exactly—before
or after our father died, two weeks shy
of their 14th anniversary in December?

The effusive “brite lights,” cradled like eggs,
the tarnish-proof tinsel garlands
(flame-proof, “as advertised in Life”:
18 feet for 59 cents) don’t square
with what I recall she felt about Christmas.
By nine p.m., she collapsed in tears:
It was all too much. But mostly she kept
her emotions tightly wrapped,
producing the holiday each year as if
nothing were wrong, being bound
to a forced march. Here she kept
two snowy spheres, signed with
a glittery salutation: Merry Xmas from
Lacey and Bob Eckhart—who were they?

Now I think,
here’s how to move on: gather
the ornaments—those that are good—
to ship to my brother (one bears his name,
in our father’s hand); mark the package:
Open in August. Then, toss
the tinsel that won’t ever tarnish,
glass necklaces with their missing beads;
release the clip bird with its rusted spring,
whose ragged feathers bespeak a storm
of years, trapped in a sealed box
behind the painted-shut cabinet doors.

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