google-site-verification=yqnOVJUqdqvbNdWqDbC67BTiKU-h1a2__nJxOf6JiSg poem inner | Jen Sage-Robison

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 -

lavish rewards.

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.

© 2018 by Kitchen Table Writers