We opened up the unit when he died,
revealing to the sun a poor man’s cache.
This homeless man, who loved me once, or tried,
kept all his treasure here, and all his trash.
If he had known his end would come so soon,
would he have kept so much for us to find?
Now every broken thing becomes a clue,
misleading evidence, all left behind.
His girl unearths those books he loved to read,
the Stephen King, Tom Clancy all mildewed.
His son picks up the quilt my mother made,
bright pieces of our life, all now subdued.
He hoarded all those Playboys, and those tools
he stole from his employers day by day
as if they owed him recompense, the fools,
as if to make up for his misery.
I married him so long ago, as young
as these our children, looking through his things
intent on finding something safe among
the minefield of his past, the pulling strings
that draw them into what we tried and failed
to make into a home, a family.
Now fatherless, another dream derailed,
they find his house of cards in disarray.
We learn the gift of having things to sift through
when things are all the answers someone left you.
Published in The Lyric, Winter 2008
(revised after publication)