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.