A handful of Jen's poems
My grandmother ripped off a pair of candlesticks from the Yankee Pedlar
Inn, stuck them on her mantle at home. She hustled a crystal punchbowl
out the front door another night, right past the maitre d'. Never would
say how. My mom's a master too. Flatware. Small statuary. She slid
a platter into her purse at the rooftop café of Le Pompidou
while asking directions of a Frenchman. I watched her do it.
Thievery slinks down my maternal line. "I'm liking the look of that butter
dish," Mom instructs out the side of her mouth, elbowing my eight-year-old.
We don't just steal from strangers. Nanny once stood at the Smith Street
sink elbow deep in Palmolive as her living room rug bobbed past
the kitchen window rolled over Uncle Kenny's shoulder.
Boompa worked at Hendey's machine shop then. With three girls
to dress and feed, a decent rug was no small thing. But crying -
in stitches at sneaky Kenny's nerve - Nanny could only watch
mute as her rug made its getaway up the drive.
In the years my mother and I didn't speak, I broke in on Thursdays
when I knew Jeanne, the woman who cleaned, would be in the house
alone. I slipped inside while Jeanne vacuumed, acting like I still had a key.
I stole my mother's earrings, her sweaters - two sizes too small for me
but smelling of her, her perfume and breath. I grabbed the 8X10 of my sister
and me, posed on a tan carpeted Olin Mills step. I purloined lawn furniture,
Wheeling a metal table off the deck and across the lawn, I wrestled it
into the hatch of my Hyundai, drove back to the city where it wouldn't fit
on my porch. So I stuck it in my cramped yard and watched it from my window.
Nine years later when my mother and I reconvened
over grandchildren and what we thought then was forgiveness,
we were eager for reparations. There were daily phone calls,
books of pasted photographs, trips to a house borrowed
on the shore. Mom wrote out the steps to Nanny's
apple crisp - the kind with oats, for the ancestors'
rösti and the sour cream twists baked only in mid-winter -
We never spoke of what was stolen or what is still missing.
That's the code among us thieves
This poem first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Gyroscope Review.