With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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on the anniversary of her dying, the
candle for her flickering down
stairs, an eerie light like the
arms of someone drowning. In the
mirror my body seems to be trying
to catch up with her, as if
stripped to the bone it would be
sweeter, close. I’m in a house
that doesn’t seem like mine, though
my clothes are in a closet. I want
the smell of her, as Napoleon carried
in a locket the violets that Josephine
always wore, taken from her grave. I
take the Joy out of the drawer where
it’s nestled in flannel, and it slips
from my hands, as she did, smashes
on white tile, an explosion of glass.
I try to soak up the gold juice like
someone at a murder trying to sop
up blood. “Shit,” I yelp, but only once,
as if I’m in a church or synagogue.
Or because of the day. The bottle
could be me, ragged, in sharp pieces,
empty, holding on to what is gone.
The pale chemise reeks of jasmine
and roses. I take it to my old house,
where once, when we fought and she
said my clothes were slutty, I held
my breath, wondered when things
wouldn’t always be this way.