elsieThe house burned
like it was made of mirth
combusting into pink fire
licking awning trees of bark
only in quiet the ebbing surge
crackling the ending of us
we stood stamping our feet
against night’s chill
aware of our crumpled clothes
out of place in uniform street
you mouthed the words
what about the photos?
we cannot replace them
I felt briefly
as if I were looking through
the albums in fast motion
here is childhood
here is love
here is loss
here is the time you broke your arm
on a sledge going too fast
oh how we laughed
until it hurt
the pictures of my grandmother
I thought I knew
her inner workings like a familar clock
turns out she held herself back
like reluctant bride still
harkens for her girlhood
turns out photos are mazes
misleading those who inherit
pieces of puzzles
we put them back together
thinking if they smile
if they look happy and well
this must be so
and call it our legacy of relatives
though they are strange in their secrets
curled like dried flowers beneath them
perhaps now that they coin and turn
to ash and like the tinder they are
evaporate into midwinter skies
to join the stars
truth will come nosing around
I felt less burdened knowing
what is right here
in this cold street
underneath the unflattering lamp
making us look owlish and long faced
is more honest than
the boxes we carried on our backs
playing pass the parcel with the past
like camels
reaching into dunes
weary from their stored