The small wooden box on her mantelpiece was stained
with echoes of her paper-thin fingertips tapping the lid,
lingering in the mist of dust. The lid arched like her
back and the box was engraved in gold which matched
the mustard-coloured fade-marks on the Persian rug.
I ran my finger across the top. It felt like gravel.
Touching her history felt too near. I was standing
where she once stood, not dusting the cabinet or feeding
the plant. Inside it was now empty, but I felt the weight
of the clip-on earrings she kept in there, and that strand of
hair in a handkerchief; her precious pieces of junk
left their dust silhouettes behind – like a nuclear bomb
decimating a town, leaving ash-shadow residents on the shelf.
This was merely the wreckage I had found, the crime-scene
that was too fresh, too new. The smell of her perfume
still evaporating around me, I longed for something
intangible. I would prefer stories about the war, ones from
when she worked in a factory during the air-raids –
the sirens too far away to pervade my hearing. But not
the box, which deafened me with her warm
laughter, but couldn’t bring her back here beside me.
This poem is dedicated to my Nana and Grandma, Doris Stronach and Kathleen O’Connor who were two bloody strong and wonderful women.