by Brenna Crocker
My aunts pack the house by floor, alone,
attic to hurricane-flooded basement.
Every Precious Moments figurine and butter cookie tin another memory,
A hundred thousand stories they don’t have the time to tell.
Carrying unwieldy family portraits of people I do not know,
the brother of a cousin of a nephew’s aunt,
we uncurl yellowed photographs from dusty leather albums,
full of familiar ghosts and vacant faces and red-eye glares.
They pack baby-handprint plates with threadbare teddies,
and feed the pennies they find under cardboard-box couches
through the creaking mechanisms of the Christmas-catalogue candy machine.
Stale marble gumballs roll under pale lace bed-skirts.
If I had known the future then, I would’ve done what I can’t anymore -
Danced under the willow tree one final time,
Stamped my feet into the imprint where the rose bush used to be,
Stared into the ancient grey-tone faces behind the glass, composing myself.
Boiled cabbage and cigarette smoke -
the smell and taste of fifty years
lost in the rusted rungs of the tossed canary cage.
Our family, packed away in boxes.