Silver Poem By Jill Bialosky
On the butcher block table
is the silver that has been housed
in a molded cardboard box in my mother’s basement
and handed down to me as my inheritance.
It was great grandmother’s silver;
she died in Russia before I was born.
From great grandmother’s table
this silver came to rest in another
drawer in the cherry bureau
of her daughter’s house in Cleveland.
It came to me as I began my work.
This silver had been set, and washed,
and laid down again, night after night,
with bowls of borscht, roasted potatoes,
brisket so tender it could be cut with a fork,
in the evening candlelight after the Sabbath.
It was this butter knife
my father held in his hand, and raised
against his father in anger.
This fork he eagerly
brought to his lips
as he listened to the hushed talk
of babies lost and relatives killed in the war.
It took all day to polish the servings for twelve,
the salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl, and creamer
all wearing the monogrammed inscription
of the family initial.
Afterwards I was tired.
I looked at my days work spread out on the butcher block,
sparkling against the last stain of sun,
the way one might come upon
a dark family secret
rubbed out after a month,
a year, a decade of tarnish.
from The End of Desire