By Laurie L. Patton

The attic

was not a place

where shafts of light

danced on the beams

and people ran

fast up the stairs

to play.


Its dark doors

only opened

when my brother

needed a suitcase

to leave for Arizona

(and for good);

when my father

longed for pinwheels

on the Fourth of July;

when my cousin

wanted to use

an old baptismal gown

to bury her child.


They opened again

yesterday evening.

My mother

dragged out

all the boxes

before the final sale

of the house.


Her hands shook.

The air smelled

of rotting pine.


The last box

held very little

except a drawing

with my initials

on the bottom.


“When did you do this?”

my mother asked.


“Sixth grade,”

I answered.

“Mrs. Dougherty

asked us

to draw ourselves

when we were fifty.”


It was 1973.

I drew an old lady.

Her hair was greenish white,

the color of grass

at the first break of dawn,

and each cheek

was a different color.

She wore

a psychedelic shawl

pinned with a brooch.


“She looks like me,”

my mother said.


The gravel crunched

as the movers

pulled up

into the driveway.


“We’d better

keep her, then,”

I said.


“Yes,” said my mother.

“Before she is sold.”


Laurie L. Patton is the author of two books of poems, Fire’s Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year (White Cloud Press, 2003) and Angel’s Task: Poems in Biblical Time (Station Hill Press, 2011).  She is currently at work on a third book of poems, House Cycle, in honor of Gaston Bachelard.  She is also author or editor of eight books on Indian mythology and religion, and translator of the Indian classical text, The Bhagavad Gita for Penguin Classics Series (2008). She is Durden Professor of Religion at Duke University.

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