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by Nancy Bailey Miller

In my attic, several years ago,
a red squirrel gnawed worn fabric
on the navy suitcase that my mother
carried in her travels to Debrovnik, Peking,
Moscow, Lake Louise.

A combination lock with tiny silver tumblers
spins to 8:15; it’s curtain time on Broadway,
time to have a bite to eat at Sardi’s.
But it’s also time to pitch this suitcase
with the red-plush lining, still a hint

of scented soap: magnolia.
The elastic on the pockets now is stretched
and brittle; there is just one golden safety pin
attached to drooping silk.
In my mother’s day this lining cushioned

silk pajamas, silver flask of vodka,
purple ultra-suede that never wrinkled,
folded Catalina swimwear, and
a book or two, perhaps James Michener.
Could it be twenty years

since I sat near the gurney,
my last journey to the land of royal palms,
to kiss my mother’s crayon-yellow forehead
just before she traveled to the fire
and the ashes?


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