“The Keeping” by Philip A. Lisi

On the third floor,
The air is particled with old life—
When children drew
Broad-whiskered cats
And wrote leaden cursive
On lines of yellow tablet paper
The color of yarrow.

She keeps these things,
Carefully pressed together
In files labeled with our names,
Preserving what we might have been.

Sometimes I imagine
They whisper together,
These fragile parchments of the past,
Like papery wasps
Inside a dusty lampshade:
“Do you remember
When they were young
And belonged to her?”

In winter, she ascends
To visit us in our youth,
Reminding herself of a time
When keeping and filing
Labored to fill a space
That would always be hollow.

After she is gone,
I must enter there,
And I find it hard to breathe.
Bound to sort through
What is left of us,
I am held between lives
Captured in time on fading pages
And want to burn them—

If only to martyr those memories
That once sustained
Something like love
And stifle the regret
That comes so quickly to me now.

Philip A. Lisi lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he teaches English at his high school alma mater by day and writes poetry and flash fiction by night alongside his family and the ghost of their cantankerous Wichienmaat cat, Sela. His work has appeared in Litbreak MagazineRosette Maleficarum, and the Serious Flash Fiction anthology.

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