In a Hat Box

A Poem by Karen Kelsay

When I wake at three in the morning with stars
sprinkled between my curtains, and see
my old hat box wedged on the corner shelf
beneath scalloped shadows, I remember

its contents of unused wool from a needlepoint
canvas, colored pencils and the camera
with a broken lens. I recall a length of ribbon
too dark for my hair, business cards

that no longer matter, a plastic harmonica
from an amusement hall and an old monogrammed
handkerchief wrapped around a black and white
picture of you, leaning against a palm tree.

Back then, you were a transplanted Nebraskan
collecting San Diego summers in your pockets,
exploring tide pools and sailboats. Each Saturday
you rode the bus to Hotel Del Coronado

where big band music filled the Victorian ball room.
One night, you posed on the lawn in pearls and heels,
beneath a sand dollar moon embedded above the bay.
That was before you married dad and took trips

to Bermuda and Europe. Before mundane chores,
diapers, three children, bike rides and sewing classes.
Before trading the eucalyptus hills of Balboa Park
for an inland home in Orange County

and black lab who shed on your carpet.
Before illness.
When a slice of moon could sneak across
the Pacific and still glint in your eyes.


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