Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out

Melinda Coppola

twenty four may | from the inside out

I’ve just had five poems published in the inaugural issue of The Turning Leaf Journal.  Here’s one of them.
I wrote this the same day I went through a few old hat boxes in my daughter’s closet in an attempt to get rid of things.


What not to do when decluttering 

Three bags stood
at the ready,
blue marker proclaiming them—
Keep, Toss, Donate.

William Morris said it best—
anything that stays must prove its worth
or dazzle with its beauty.

I coaxed the jaws
of her closet open,
my honeyed hum
companion to fervent,
ever-fresh intention.

A midnight blue hatbox
with fading gold stars
marching across its top
called from behind a jumble
of her winter boots

and downed t-shirts—
all larger than my own now—
pinned under a fallen hanger.

The frayed lid lifted easily
revealing a clutch of photographs gone sticky
through too many summers
and general neglect.

Aloud to myself: Yup. These can go.

Poking out from under
this priceless, useless mash,
a field of tiny fuschia daisies
freckling some still-soft cotton.

I fingered a sleeve the length of my hand,
lifted the whole of it tenderly
into the bright October light.
Tiny legs flapped from the motion.

Once-white collar stiff to my touch,
lace gone yellow with years
and old spit-up stains.

Next moment I was lifting her
from the plastic car seat
with its cheery balloon cushion,
my breath paused
to protect her sleep.

My sagging breasts tingled,
as if her hunger needed quelling,
her lamb-like cry needed quieting,
even though she lay heavy in sleep
on my shoulder.

Outside the window
a mail truck rumbled by,
snapping me back
into presence—October afternoon.

What could I do, then,
but gather the babywear
to my face,
bury my nose deep
into the field of flowers?

As my creased cheeks
grew damp
and the soft cotton
became handkerchief

what could I do
but anoint its utility,
fold it tenderly,
name it
Keep, Keep, Keep?


–Melinda Coppola


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