Barbara Greenbaum

Prism

I found it while sifting my mother’s things, 
a pile for keep, a pile 
for something else. A thick round 
of pure white glass sliced at an angle 

like you’d cut French bread. 
A single small hole for a wire hanger. 
Not much to look at on its own. 

I hung it in the window on the latch. 
Don’t know where my mother got this, 
or who gave it to her, 
why I decided to keep it, or

hang it just there where miraculously 
it would be the one place
best apt for conjuring colors.  

Can’t remember just when I noticed
that hour when the sun 
fractured light 
across the cream-colored wall 

in muddled strips of blue, yellow and red, 
reminding me there’s something here, 
saying—just look up, 
you’ll see. 

But Here She Is Smiling, With Everything She Had

In the picture my mother is standing in my stepfather’s dining room gripping the back of a wooden chair. She’s smiling with her whole face. The blue of her satin dress deepens her eyes. Her hair is a perfectly coiffed helmet of blonde. She’s probably sixty-two, trim, elegant in her gold clip earrings. She’s happy in the Civil War-era house filled with his dead wife’s things. Cloisonné plates, hand-blown goblets, bulbously articulated Victorian silverware they’ll use every day. She’s three years from giving up Virginia Slims for good. Five from having two whiskeys before dinner instead of one. Ten years away from arguments about who should pay to fix the dying burner on the stove or take that trip to Cancun. Twenty years from him dying of congestive heart failure in the guest bedroom. Twenty-two from getting her own place, the first one she’ll have in her lifetime she didn’t have to share. Thirty from her own death and having the remaining elements of her life scattered around. The Delft urns to Babsie, bowl to Cindy, plate to Jere. The pearls to the first granddaughter, the gold bracelet to the last. 

 

You decide the rest, she’d said.

PREVIOUS
NEXT
TABLE OF CONTENTS