The Memory Box Of a soft wood, with felt interior. Not a blood red, but somehow sinister, A red Little Red Riding Hood might wear, Though having paled a little. On the cover, A “hand-drawn” map of Africa, Europa, Oceanus Aethiopicus, Peru, Hispania, El Mar Pacifico, America. And something that must be Antarctica below it. The tan sea, The brown land, reek of masculinity, A bow-legged, barrel-chested way to see The world: leather, dark wood, cigars and whiskey. There is no lock, no shimmer of a key Suggesting girlhood, its secrecy And private depth. No ornament to be Lost through the years. It opens easily, Without a sound, on things that have grown old Without quite showing it: cufflinks, a gold Necklace, a few small clippings, barely yellowed In the dark; pins of silver, pins of gold; And a single wooden match, in waiting like The rest, which I don’t have the heart to strike.
The Mother, in Traces She must have been the opposite of mine In many ways. She married an attorney. My father was a coach. They had some money To play with. We had none, or next to none. And they had this half acre, and this house, When it was still a doctor’s house, a lawyer’s, Before it became something for the heirs To have to deal with. The little silk dress In the back closet, so diminutive On the hanger; the full-length fur; the cashmere Sweater. Even the woman’s name—Eleanor— And, even more, her nickname—Ellie—live In some exotic, bygone universe Of tennis sets and candlesticks, some frieze Of middle-class, small-town progressiveness That I can never taste of, not because It’s above my station or beyond my reach, But because it’s gone, dropped as far away Already as the 19th century From the space age: that day when, stitch by stitch, As though to signify eternity, One woman wrote the other’s name in gold In the black lining of a mink coat—hidden, pulled Thread of the past—that has somehow come down to me.
Jim Burrows is the author of Back Road, a chapbook published by Barefoot Muse Press in 2015. His poems have appeared in 32 Poems, The Southwest Review, Tar River Poetry, and other journals. He is a real estate appraiser in Cordell, Oklahoma.