When your father died
and then your mother six months later,
you and your sisters and brothers gathered
to ready their house for selling.
I could see all of you had to do it quickly,
like emergency surgery.
Although your parents had moved many times
it seemed they threw nothing away,
but you and your brothers and sisters
selected your keepsakes, then
hauled away in a few short weeks
all those outdated and worn-out things
no one wanted or needed.
You found it too painful to think about
a yard sale, placing price stickers
on the things of value that remained,
so you and your siblings invited
your parents’ friends and neighbors
and their entire church congregation
to come for a Sunday afternoon give-away.
By the end of the day, most items were gone.
But no one chose the animal figures
brought back as souvenirs from their many trips –
a carved Cassowary from Australia,
a nativity scene with a Holy Family of koalas
and wallaby wise men,
bright red and blue wooden Swedish horses,
giraffe and elephant magnets from Africa,
a blue glass serving dish shaped like a swan,
a set of glass snails with prisms for shells,
dozens of quail in wood, glass, wax,
an ostrich egg carved through with aboriginal symbols,
this set of napkins printed with birds in bold colors
that we use tonight seven years later –
and so we took the animals home.
We simply couldn’t leave them behind.
Over time, we find they have somehow
jostled into position, found their own
alliances of space with the animals
we have collected over the years –
a spotted wooden cat of no known earthly species,
a monkey carved into a Peruvian gourd,
plump, stuffed figures of Wind in the Willows’
Mr. Badger, Mole, Ratty and Mr. Toad,
a larger-than-life papier-mâché quetzal perched
in a blue iron hoop.