by Ute Carson
Published in "Illya's Honey,"i> Dallas Poets Community, Vol.13, Fall/Winter 2007

We have moved the antique furniture to our new home,
Reassembled head-and sideboards,
Connected bases and tops with worn-wooden pegs.
As I rub the oil into the 18th century cupboard
Whispers escape from the hand-carvings
And moans seep from dry planks, warped and chapped.
Gently I polish the brass handles, the locks of intricate design
And where a corner is missing, an ornament broken off,
I carefully wipe my cloth over the ancient wounds.

A gilt-framed, yellowed photograph of my great-great-grandmother,
Fan and petticoat swirling past pewter dishes on the shelves,
Decorates the dark alcove of the sturdy breakfront.
And hidden among chiseled rosettes are an A and a P,
Modest imprints of the cabinetmaker at St. Ivan, a country castle near Prague.

Our six-year old grandson Nicholas gapes at the carved dragons
Snarling from the drawer-faces.
Timidly his fingers touch a wood whorl,
Then trace along the edge of a gouged groove.
I continue my work, smoothing, preserving.
No longer can I see the previous owners' smiles
Or watch the cabinetmaker at his craft,
But I feel the presence of the past as in a dream
Laying hands on old wood and bygone lives.

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