When the puppy snarfles for breakfast
I wake to the radiator gurgling
then feet crunching the reticent snow.
Before I was born, Mother sewed her own suits.
What do her ashes know?
Father shoved snow off the supine roof.
Mother crafted Christmas ornaments:
glue and glitter and red balls.
No tinsel, no angels.
Her death started in the living room.
For bonsai, pliers the size of a nail clipper,
spools of wire and a fist-sized rock.
One bore a petite pomegranate,
never to eat, not to touch.
Her death began with a baseball bat.
In the vineyard, he secured the strongest cane
from training stake to fruiting wire.
Pruning with handsaw and lopper.
He’d leave a spur for the next season.
He shoved her away with direct objects.
In a cold snap if one pipe freezes,
the rest may freeze as well.
Even before the puppy snarfles.
Even before a baby brother arrived
in the misleading car in Mother’s arms.
After the war, after she met Father,
she smoked cigarettes but didn’t cha-cha anymore.
She’d light up and blow smoke
out the apoplectic window.
He found the ashes on the sill.
Fireflies blinked for mates or prey outside
the savvy window of my own first home.
On the stereo, a bluesman cried,
I need my ashes hauled!
The dress was too smart to wear.
I tucked away our baby’s pink layette
in circumspect mothballs
for a christening that never took place.
As well, a doll that Auntie crocheted.
More than anything, I love tidal pools.
I know her ashes are at Father’s, lost
in his charnel of junk mail.
He claims that thieves have stolen that box,
his knob cutter and root hook.
He says, remains aren’t ashes anyways.
Winter stripped everything to the limb
and dejected nest. No angels, no crèche.
I don’t know whose recollections are suspect:
after leaving Maui, Mother learned to swim.
She loved tidal pools more than anything.
In my kitchen, the logs blink in the fire —
through blinds, the wind blusters and
the browbeaten trees creak in the orchard.
The rain pours then stops for sun. If
he lost Mother’s ashes what more could I stand?
Omusubi tastes best on black beaches.
Since Mother never learned to swim,
did she watch her five brothers from a blanket?
On the intransigent subway, I don’t know if
I’ve passed my station. (His mother said yes —)
Iron: I bit my lip again.
Mother showed our baby how to sift flour
and how to crank an eggbeater.
After Father lost her,
he barred everyone from the rooms and the yard
where at night long red worms
slither up from the ground.
Her ashes know: before the puppy snarfles,
Father shoves snow off the supine roof;
for bonsai, use pliers the size of a nail clipper;
in the vineyard, the strongest canes;
in a cold snap, a hair dryer on frozen pipes;
fireflies blinked for mates or prey outside
while I tucked away my baby’s pink layette.
Her ashes know their box is in the living room
where she didn’t cha-cha anymore.
Where has winter stripped everything to the nest?
In my kitchen, the logs blink in the fire and I know
omusubi tastes best on black beaches.
She knew to show her granddaughter how to sift flour.