fallen house

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.