Legs unscrewed and clattering in the flatbed,
grandmother’s sewing machine was hauled off
to my sister’s. But I took her button jar,
that had watched over the dooryard
from its windowsill perch since I was a girl.
Embossed with an angled “Bell,” that blue bank
gathered up her wood and bakelite coins
year after year — a stitch in time as the wind
would scatter frostbitten leaves, and snow,
then apple petals, strewn like flakes of nacre.
When grandfather was taken to the home,
my cousin took his tools, thrown into a box,
their sweat-burnished handles nicked
and scraped by each another’s bit and blade.
But I chose from the workshop a coffee jar
of washers, mote-shouldered, dented lid —
waste not, want not — and each rusted ring
plinked inside was a penny in a well,
a wish that the work wouldn’t end.
Huddled side by side, I’ve set both jars
on my kitchen shelf, putting by a portion
of what they sought to save, the life still
gleaming through those two smooth faces,
both brimming with their absence.
by Kevin Casey
Editor’s Note: Nostalgia meets memory in this poem. The careful attention to detail is a wistful narrative of the past wrought in buttons and washers.
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