She was cleaning. There’s always that to do. After a funeral.
She found his old silk vest at the top of the closet and lifted it down, calling for her daughter to come, come look, unrolling it carefully, “like something live might fall out.”
Together, mother and daughter spread the vest on the kitchen table and smooth the wrinkles. The buttons all still there. She held out her arms and looped the wide armholes over them, stepping inside her father’s reach.
“That’s one thing I never wanted to be,” she said. “A man.”
She walked down the hall to the bathroom to see how it looked. Then she heard her mother crying loudly from back in the kitchen.
“Time to go to her, I thought, with that other mind, and stood still.”
[I’ve borrowed from Tess Gallagher’s poem, “Black Silk,” written shortly after her father’s death. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=240438]
I love the tucked away tops of closets and fading kitchen Formica, a surface that should hold the shape of our elbows, a familiar stretch whispering:
Here I am, chopping vegetables for the Sunday roast.
Finished your homework? Brush your teeth and say your prayers. I’ll be up in a minute.
Watch me scatter cutlery with my wild gestures because politics gets me going; because the march on Washington was 47 years ago but the steps are felt today.
Press the edge of the table and give it a squeeze.
Here we are, it says, alive for each other.
I breathe in then blow to disturb the dust up where treasures hide, my hands reach to untangle an old vest or slide along the edge of a fragile diary written in a young girl’s hand, pressed gardenia petals slide away. Beach sand crevises along the spine.
I love the mother and daughter coming together to clean, calling toward each other knowing arms are near to anchor broken hearts.