The sign says Estate Sale, code words,
someone died, usually a grandmother,
mother or elderly aunt, the men already gone.
Two great nieces sit in overstuffed chairs
drawn to an early American table, topped
with Japanese Hummels and sandwiches
on waxpaper, potato chips and half full cola cans.
This is part of the ritual of letting go,
after all no one wants Aunt Mae’s old things.
The great nieces live in new vinyl houses,
decorated with designer furniture of pressed wood,
poly-acrylic protected, permanent press Pricillas,
and rent to own.
Put up that sign and strangers rush
in where family fears to tread.
I confess, I am one of those strangers,
I walk reverently through the house, after all
she well could have passed in this room.
Not wanting to appear insensitive, a vulture,
I examine, measure with care the leavings,
those in sight of the great nieces… mourners.
In the bedroom I quickly sum up a life’s accumulation,
unused gifts from sons and daughters, worn quilts
pieced by her mother, polyester dresses and slips,
straps pinned shorter with safety pins. I untangle
a lace shawl tossed on the floor in a cardboard box.
Aunt Mae had run a string through the top cupping
it to fit around her frail shoulders. I hold it up,
admire the flower tracings tatted into the triangle
of silky fringe. It cannot be much,
an old woman’s shawl.
Michelle Keller, a member of Netwest and hostess for Coffee With the Poets, also submits announcements to newspapers about Netwest events. Contact her about reading at John Campbell Folk School in 2009 if you are a NCWN West member. email@example.com