Smalls by Gail Thomas

Smalls

They spread across tables at flea markets,
spill out of boxes, mementos from a trip
or romance, collections of salt shakers,
heirloom silver spoons. After my parents die
I find a wax paper square with my name
and hank of fine flaxen hair, box of teeth
with rust-blood roots, hand-sewn dress.

My grandmother’s hair is wrapped in tissue,
not the curled grey helmet I knew, but a long,
golden braid. Did she cut it off when her first
child was born, too worn out to care for
one more thing? It lies curled upon itself
like a soft animal, shimmering with lights
that must have lured her husband to unpin it
until the soft fall rained over his hands.

There are no silver cups, no engraved watches;
these smalls are stained bibs, hair and teeth
preserved like the relics my people prayed to
in the old country. Children were their saints,
the ones who would live larger, easier.

Now, my daughters are grown.
I pare down, save the chalk drawing
of a blue horse in the desert, the scent
that rose from my baby’s skin,
a small blessing.

by Gail Thomas

Editor’s note: The detailed description of things emphasizes the lost relationships the narrator has with both the living and the dead.

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