The round tin
that once contained
the holiday rum cake
which was always shifting
with a festive load
of my mother’s buttons—

varieties and sizes
of deep rich colors:
chocolate browns,
pomegranate reds,
sporty dark blues,
all of them sliding over

each other at just the touch,
making a rushing sound.
Sometimes the silver surface
at the bottom flashing
so that it became a mirror,
and you could see yourself,

momentarily, surprised
to seem so avid in your delight.
I remember placing my hands
amid the buttons
and allowing them to stream
through my fingers

one after the other,
feeling the satisfaction
of their diversity,
their utility, their charm,
and trying to guess
which one might be used next—

to be sewn onto a sleeve,
or to be attached
to a collar, or to be added
to a winter coat: the deep greens,
the azures, the pearls.
To be able to reach in

and hold them
while my mother sewed,
calculating where they might go
took up some of the best,
and most hallowed,
of my boyhood hours.