Sorting Bags

She had bags of bags, filled with shoes,
Christmas wrappings,
old cards and new ones.
Bags of overplayed toys and of unopened letters.

We kept clawing into the gloom and dust.
More bags and open boxes,
buried in the insect-shell-carpet,
deep in the fabric of the long dead.
Box after box…
some had bags in, some had letters in,
reams of notes, in bags.

There were more shoes,
a crimson coat of monstrous proportions.
There was a box full of bags from the eighties filled with toys
– battalions of soldiers in disarray
eyeballing
teams of alien muscle men
through the decades.

And last of all,
wrenching the newspaper floor with it,
dragged out from beyond,
a decomposing leather hold-all,
filled with photographs.
Beaming back from their childhood,
tiers of school pics,
camping trips,
instants of birthdays hurried though
and flashes of Christmases.
I clamber back. Kneel back and,
hands on knees,
take a breath.

These treasures are piled in the spare room,
one trove stacked on a chair.
Inhaling the gasps of long ago, hefting.
The chatter of ages fills my nostrils,
hits the back of my throat – my memories
– and I gulp down more,
then she shuts the bedroom window,
which suffocates us abruptly.

Go get a bag then.
Her hands already picking over the bones.

Another bag. This one heavy
with the dark implications of the Black.
The crisp pliable plastic of sacks,
body bags.
I bare my mind as I reach into the
kitchen cupboard, downstairs.
Here dark personal thoughts swim.
So upstairs again I rip
one finality after another
off the roll
as she empties years of what-ifs into these
terrible cocoons.

We stay there for days jogging back
and forth through shared and forgotten
events. All that’s dead is gone, all that’s dust
is dead. In a bag in a box
in a hole. There’s a dream that once
lit up her head.

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