Before, this box contained my mother.
For months she'd sent me out for index cards,
scribbled with a squirrel concentration
while I'd nag at her, seeing strength
drain, ink-blue, from her finger-ends
providing for a string of hard winters
I was trying not to understand.
Only after, opening it, I saw
how she'd rendered herself down from flesh
to paper, alphabetical; there for me
in every way she could anticipate
Acupuncture: conditions suited to
Books to read by age twenty-one
Choux pastry: how to make, when to use
The cards looked after me. I'd shuffle them
to almost hear her speak. Then, the world
was box-shaped (or was I playing safe?)
for every doubt or choice, a card that fitted
Exams: the best revision strategy
Flowers: cut, how to make them last
Greece: the men, what you need to know
But then they seemed to shrink. I'd turn them over,
find them blank; the edges furred, mute,
whole areas wrong, or missing. Had she known?
The language pointed to what wasn't said.
I'd add notes of my own, strange beside
her urgent dogmatism, loosening grip
infinitives never telling love
lust single issue politics when
don't hopeless careful trust
On the beach, I built a hollow cairn,
tipped in the cards. Then I let her go.
The smoke rose thin and clear, slowly blurred.
I've kept the box for diaries, like this.
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