Your thousand secret selves
live in this room,
hidden in plain sight:

–worn patchwork of your trousseau quilt
faded memories fingered unconsciously,
pieces of a girl I never knew

–corner rocker, young husband’s gift,
wide armed to support cradled babies

–Grandmother’s earrings of silver and pearl
tumbled as you tossed them,
atop the polished dresser,
entwined like lovers

And secreted in corners of drawers,
bottoms of chests, back of closet shelves
behind life’s mundane vestments:

–tintypes in grey paper folders,
no decorous families in dark skirts and waistcoats,
but people relaxing, embracing, holding pets,
a laughing young girl in a derby

–crumble-cornered documents made official
with bits of crumpled ribbon,
vanishing sepia script

–packets of your brother’s poetry.

You blossom in my hands
like stigmata,
red roses with pricking thorns.

We have wept—my sister and I—
children once more these few days,
sharing grief unevenly,
scrabbling for memories as for affection,
reliving old jealousies.

We have swept
emptied closets—fingered silks that flow
in genteel parings from fat, shirred hangers,
breathing in the same lavender scent
that settles on our skins.

We have folded, packed,
carted off to charities of which you
would not approve,
but we cannot loose your spirit
from this place.

Bright squares mar
faded blue ribbon and cabbage roses
where we have taken down
stiff, hand-tinted portraits from long,
long before Kodachrome.

Dust motes follow the sun window to window
vacant eyes, fever bright,
illuminating in turn bureau, chest,
table, gaping closet,
bare bed

–marriage bed, birthing bed,
sick bed, death bed—

braided wooden posts,
shallow furrow just off center
where you lay becoming translucent,

But, your presence is palpable,
something different to each of us—
each your favorite when she needed—
and when we put our parts together,
they are greater than the whole.