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Beside an Accent Chair, in December

By Alexandra Palmer


The year we moved to Ohio, I noticed

she stopped painting her nails. On days she wore

her hair back (no ribbon, no curls),

I often used the word nice. Moths were getting warm

in the corners of our laundry, lazing in Josephine’s car seat,

nesting behind the throw pillows.


Yet, even on Monday evenings, we went driving.

She would turn on Rachmaninoff and blush.


That night she had fallen in with three cups of chamomile

tea, which she sipped for the aches. It was so late

she had let Tess out and back in again.

Those erratic spaniel ears, doused in slush, smacked her calves.

She toweled the dog dry and led her to bed.

It was long since her hands had sunk into hot water.

She didn’t see me come downstairs for an orange, a book,

to bring her to bed. From the living room, I heard her

sit down heavily, and the accent chair shhhed that I should wait.


On our mantle hung boughs of bald cypress, which she had clipped

several days after Thanksgiving. Their tang

collided with soot, cologneing her hair; gossip between

that ashy breath and the oily tree enticed her to come,

caress one of the green sleeves. She bent to it. The needles clung to her skin.

Bits of resin fondled her fingers, a shimmering, gamey balm.