My Mother's Coat
No one who lived through it looks back
to the Great Depression. Holding on was what they did
to make do and get out. Then, my grandparents wanted
everything new, threw out the old
Depression glass, sold the Fiestaware at garage sale -
service for twelve, 25 bucks -
and bought Melmac, new.
My mother spent her adult years scouring
flea markets, garage sales, antique stores
and fighting her sister
for every scrap to resurrect and rewrite
the childhood she despised - a tin cup nursery rhyme,
Duncan Phyfe sewing table and a little red wagon.
I am too much my mother's child,
believing enough elbow grease can scrub the residuals
from an unsatisfactory past. Today I mourn
and look for a midnight couch,
velvet, redolent of Minnesota basement and escape
into Black Stallion and Nancy Drew.
Instead, in a rack of old clothes,
in the form of a b/w houndstooth coat,
velvet collar, I run into my mother's must
do's – perfectly ironed, smelling just short of scorched,
cotton sheets, daily swept sidewalks, Pledged oak furniture,
waxed linoleum floors and the small
revolt of my sister's upchucking
Mom's potato chip, pea and tuna casserole
on her flow blue plate, topped with a handful
of pills when Mom couldn't take anymore.
I try the coat on. Two inches too short in the sleeves
and a choke hold across my chest, a perfect fit
for my daughter, who I know will treat it with due respect -
she will wear it to her job and to the bars,
she will wear it to clean out her car
and to take out the trash. On my next visit
to her apartment I will find this coat, named
for a class of dogs, a comfy bed for her cats.