Having Babies

She calls up to their rooms in her mind.
She waits but no one calls back,
no feet peek out as they round the stairs,
no legs moving under full skirts, yellow shorts
cropped at the knee. How long can she stand,
her head bowed to listen, the banister
dulled from all the hands that gripped it?
Her bones slide in and out of joint
as she sways, unbalanced, her blue eyes
blinking at the quiet.
She is the only one left.
Her mother passing long ago,
remnants of her stashed in dark corners
of the house- dollar bills floating from
the pages of a book, a stack of treasured stamps
left brittle in her desk. She sleeps
in the bed her husband died in.
His hand outstretched, palm up,
left where she had cradled it the night before.
“Having babies was like playing dolls,”
she tells me, “held them as much as I could.”
For a while it was just my mother
and her brother. Eventually
my uncle came with red hair
and eyes that cautioned you
to handle him with care. Three rooms
of toys, tennis rackets, shotguns, love
letters ripped up and then taped back
together. They took long road trips
cross country, amazed by the
interstate system and the new shining
cars whistling with hope.

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