One thousand pieces.
My mother works section by section:
the white cat’s paws
the green butterfly,
the day her youngest daughter was born.
My brother looks at each piece in turn.
He finds its twin in the picture on the box.
He places it exactly where it belongs.
And his twin sister,
She is here, now, still and squeezed dry,
close to completion.
She smiles from far away when someone speaks.
My middle sister works the borders:
Make the frame; the rest will fit in.
insists that someone
took the corners.
we need are
has a piece in
My father comes to the table with coffee.
He is in no section; no border can hold him.
He can only hold his daughter’s hand.
I sort the pieces into small piles.
Not enough room on this table,
nor room enough here at all
for this hardest of works,
for these infinite pieces of time.
My little sister died twenty years ago this month, in Vermont Respite House. I wrote this shortly after her death–among my first serious grown-up poems. I’ll always be grateful to Sue for many things, and especially for being a Muse.