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poetry by Rachel Wineberg, comment by Alicia Ostriker

“I Threw Out”

Your toothbrush, dental floss, soap, glasses,

socks, stained T-shirts,

12 lipsticks, 3 rouges, 5 tubes of foundation,

sunscreen, unopened deodorant.

I kept the eye cream.

 

I threw out a piece of paper on which you wrote

phone numbers and mathematical equations,

a photocopy of your Continuing Ed classes

where you circled “Drawing Class: Jan. 5.”,

a needlepoint sampler with letters, a parrot,

a girl holding a parasol—

threads dangling

where her body should be.

Marking the exact spot where you stopped.

 

I threw out 7 vials of pills you refused to take,

3 containers of chocolate calcium chews in bright

purple packaging,

an ignored yellow pill on your make-up table,

a forgotten white pill on the bedside table,

a rejected red pill on your walker.

 

Your name affixed on your walker—

I threw that out too.

 

I threw out the rotting meat,

moldy bread,

wilted lettuce,

over-ripened fruit,

decayed vegetables,

desserts no one touched —

from your post-burial meal.

I emptied your closet,

consigned your clothes,

donated your purses,

kept some of your jewelry, comb, scarfs,

scissors, the quilted squares you made

and framed,

the porcelain doll with the big orange hat

you loved when you were four.

 

The seven-day memorial candle that arrived

four days late

burns past

Day One,

Day Two,

Opaque white wax standing at attention,

Day Three,

Day Four,

Day Five,

Evaporating into Day Six,

Day Seven.

All that remained was the

Silver metal square inside a translucent container.

 

I tossed it down the garbage chute,

Fleeing the sound of shattered glass.


 

Lilith poetry editor Alicia Ostriker:

While it is seemingly unemotional, this poem will penetrate the hearts of so many readers by its evocation of the commonplace objects that define a life, and so define a loss. Love and sorrow are in the unrelenting details, and the details grow increasingly symbolic toward the poem’s climax.