[Originally published in BYU Studies 2006 / 2nd Place BYU Studies Poetry Contest 2006]
The accumulated things of the garage
the closets, the basement, under the bed
even the back of your bottom drawer
begin to clutter your thoughts too as
moving day approaches.
And moving is a cleansing ritual.
A time to purge the trifling. A sort of trial.
Objects not worthy of boxing or bubble wrap
you sentence to the thrift store perhaps
or the landfill.
Yet, in the hour of casting off
some force stays your hand.
That’s why boxes not unpacked from
the last move reveal items that
obtained midnight pardons.
Considering these gaudy toll-painted
Halloween decorations, old quilts
too shabby it seems even for dogs,
you are willing to consider whether
some dead ancestor has intervened.
Someone, you suppose, who had a body and
wants it back; who had a houseful of matter
organized in the form of porcelain saucers
and cable-knit sweaters
and a kitchen table of quarter-sawn oak.
When the living jostle for the family things,
you resist the obvious diagnoses:
greed, obsessive compulsion,
an attempt to establish once and for all
who grandma truly loved best. No,
something more must animate them.
Maybe the knowledge that grandpa’s
spirit also gave this matter life.
Made it sing, fingers clenching the fret board.
Or a secret, perhaps, about what it means to
wear flesh; to exercise dominion
over even the most inconsequential clod,
a nothing that exerts its own gravitational pull.