Two Poems by Denise Duhamel

Reading by the author

What My Mother Left Behind

she had already emptied her house of all the cards I made for her
the pipe cleaner hearts my misspelled love
a curl of my baby hair in wax paper
a green crocheted baby blanket
and matching bows she safety-pinned to my crib
my report cards
my picture in the local paper for winning a third grade art contest
obituaries clipped from the Woonsocket Call
loose buttons in a blue Royal Dansk Danish Cookie tin
a digital alarm clock knickknacks
her wedding dress wedding china and silverware

she was down to just a few bowls and cups

she’d given away the frying pans too heavy for her to lift
the wrapping paper rolls (too much for her arthritic hands
to mess with scissors and tape) all her shoes with heels
the TENS machine that never really helped
my dad’s bicentennial quarters (he collected one from every state)
the bag of flour (too heavy) the lawnmower and chainsaw
(Tony took care of the lawn by then)
the toolbox except for one screwdriver (because you never know)
the lanyards with ID cards from Foxwoods and Twin River casinos
her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook set
the Encyclopedia Britannica
the 1965 dictionary with the marbled endpapers
the potting soil tomato trellis and expired makeup
the record player and all her Johnny Mathis albums (CDs were easier)
the sewing machine the knitting needles
the soft and warn Bicycle playing cards

Reading by the author

The Nursing Home

kept her shoes and jacket and extra nightgowns
someone else we said should make use of them
we wonder now who waters her orchid
rolls along leaning on her walker then watches her Smart TV
we wonder who lounges in her remote control chair
who sips her bottles of flavored water
who refreshes their breath with her wintergreen mints

Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her nonfiction publications include The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose (with Julie Marie Wade, Noctuary Press 2019). A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is a distinguished university professor in the M.F.A. program at Florida International University in Miami.

Image: “Living Room Kistch” by Daniel Nester

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