Monday, September 8, 2008

Michelle Keller, poet, writes about a Lace Shawl

Sometimes we write poems about real people. My friend Michelle Keller gave me permission to share this lovely poem she wrote. It tells a story I think you will enjoy. I certainly do, every time I read it or hear Mike read it. So poignant.

By Michelle Keller

The sign says Estate Sale, code words,
someone died, usually a grandmother,
mother or elderly aunt, the men already gone.

Two great nieces sit in overstuffed chairs
drawn to an early American table, topped
with Japanese Hummels and sandwiches
on wax paper, potato chips and half full cola cans.

This is part of the ritual of letting go,
after all no one wants Aunt Mae's old things.
The great nieces live in new vinyl houses,
decorated with designer furniture of pressed wood,
poly-acrylic protected, permanent press Pricillas,
and rent to own.

Put up that sign and strangers rush
in where family fears to tread.
I confess, I am one of those strangers,
I walk reverently through the house, after all
she well could have passed in this room.
Not wanting to appear insensitive, a vulture,
I examine, measure with care the leavings,
those in sight of the great nieces. mourners.

In the bedroom I quickly sum up a life's accumulation,
unused gifts from sons and daughters, worn quilts
pieced by her mother, polyester dresses and slips,
straps pinned shorter with safety pins. I untangle
a lace shawl tossed on the floor in a cardboard box.
Aunt Mae had run a string through the top cupping
it to fit around her frail shoulders. I hold it up,
admire the flower tracings tatted into the triangle
of silky fringe. It cannot be much,
an old woman's shawl.

Does this touch your heart as it does mine? Does it remind you of something or someone?


tipper said...

Yes it does touch my heart. Those are the kinds of sales I love to got to-because I feel as though I 'm saving a great treasure from simply being thrown away. I love the part of the poem-where it discussing the worn items vs. the unused items. Reminds me of my Granny. As her children all grew up and got financially stable they bought her some silly things-just because they thought she'd like the things she'd never had.

Nancy Simpson said...

Yes, This poem touches my heart every time I read it, as it did the first time I read it while editing Lights in the Mountains, Stories, Essays and Poems by Writers Living in or Inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains. I have used this poem as an example of the lyric moment in teaching poetry writing.

Did it remind me of someone? O Yes! It reminded me of my brother Clyde Simpson. When he died my sister and I inherited everything he owned. His only request --No Estate Sale, No yard sale,etc. The most beautiful, treasured things in my home belonged to him. For years my three sons wore his suits, when suit was needed.

Nancy Simpson

Anonymous said...

This poem has stayed with me from the first time I heard it read and I feel so deeply the message it gives. I wonder what will happen to my meager treasures when I'm gone.
Knowing Mary Mike and how she treasures such things as this shawl I was pleased to see it prominently displayed in her house.