Clothes—died on August 10, 2015. We
stuffed them into lawn bags to donate.
Shirt after shirt, button-down after
button-down, dress after dress, limb
after limb. A few leapt out to me like
the flame from a nightmare, the kind of
flame that almost seems human in its
gestures. I kept those. I kept the
hundreds of pencils. I am writing with
a pencil from my mother’s drawer. It
says Detroit Public Schools, where she
taught. Each sentence fights me. Once
we rolled her downstairs, played
croquet and putt putt golf. She sat and
watched, her vacant eyes not seeing
anything we saw. As if she were
looking beyond us, beyond the sun.
The days of August already made a
certain way that she could see and we
couldn’t. I left her in the sun too long.
One child doing cartwheels on the grass
as my mother looked on, wearing the
white blouse with the small pink
flowers swirling in a pattern. I kept the
stare. I kept the flowers. And I
donated the vacant shirt.
Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Kenyon Review. Used with the permission of the poet.