for my brother Jim
On the rattan tray from California
every Christmas Gramma’s boring
gift arrived. We dug into the pink-
and-green-foiled dates first—moist,
at least—then gnawed the rawhide
apricots, the gritty Newtonless figs,
their dry deathly sweetness bitter
even to our young tongues. Her present
satisfied us only once: last week.
We’d both flown to salve another sibling—
her twisted brain, your rheumatoid insomnia
became my grief, shared later on my husband’s
shoulder, which he may transfuse in a play
that critics abuse, and the pain will return
to me, listening. All pain is one pain,
choked around the world: that nubbled tray
of shriveled harvest. But its dusty yuletide
memory feeds laughter and relief. I promise
you a figgy poem, and the tray is passed.
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