by Eileen Thalenberg

“You’ll have to clear the clutter,”
says the real estate agent.
Clutter? I wince and look around
the rooms through his eyes,
and only now see
what’s been accumulated
over thirty years in this house,
and what can’t be taken
with me when I leave.

The plants will have to go
as will the old hand-me-down sofa
where friends have slept throughout the years,
and complained of its discomfort,
the knick-knacks on the mantle
especially the carved fish meant as a gift
then rejected on sober second thought.

But the hardest of all: the books.
Crammed shelves must be emptied
and the awful choice – which to keep
and which to pass on to others
who will either read or discard.

I lay books into boxes like coffins
each one wrenches memories
of my past selves.  Dedications
on leaves, when and where given
and by whom come tumbling
from unknown recesses.

Between the pages a card
for my eighteenth birthday,
pressed flowers offered
by a lover long forgotten,
a receipt from Les Filles du Roy
where we celebrated what?

From Saroyan’s Human Comedy
falls a letter of love and longing
from my mother to my brother
and his terse reply: “thanks for the sweater
and the cookies but we’re too busy
to visit next month”.
What to do with these letters
from the dead to the dead?

Do snakes grieve when they shed their skin?
Oh to shed without regret, to walk away,
to slither into the unknown
until the final slithering.

— from Juniper Volume 1, Issue 2