Casting Off — Karen Mandell

Rose had taken to reusing paper plates.
She’d brush them off—a bit of grease didn’t matter.
Another cheese sandwich, chips over the stain.
She’d get three or four uses out of it. Why not?
She saved water, soap, and time.
Time she had precious little of these days.
She was nobody’s fool. She’d pared everything
down to the bare minimum. Better
she should throw out than let others
do it later. She was glad they brought her
to Hebrew Life, relieved to leave
her apartment. A kitchen, living room, bedroom,
she’d rattled around there like unlucky dice.
She wanted nothing from those dry rooms.
What was Karen thinking of, showing up
in this shared room with her tarnished tray,
the perfume bottles and framed pictures
scrabbling across the surface like mice.
Rose had meant to leave it behind.
Karen acted like it was a jeweled scepter,
so proud of herself, this daughter,
thinking she knew what her mother wanted.
Bring nuts and chocolate, things she still had time for.
She had no need for scent, and the faces of her mother and sister
were etched long ago behind her eyes.

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