He died on August 15, 1964,
during that hot hot summer.
Mother sent his clothes down to Mississippi
for the Freedom Riders,
or anyone else who needed them.
I wish she would have saved just one item for me,
something with his smell still on it.
One of his shirts, maybe, with the stained collar
or the worn down brown Oxfords
that he always polished.
I would have loved the fedora he wore all winter
or a pair of white socks
that he filled with Dr. Scholl's foot powder.
She could have left me anything: a handkerchief,
his bathing suit, an undershirt,
or those thin black leather shoe laces
he always broke.
I would have liked the shaving brush I bought him.
or the striped tie he spilled soup on.
His false teeth and the cup he put them in,
the tall glass he sipped hot tea from.
His Russian-English dictionary.
Or his bifocals and damn racing forms.
She could have left me anything:
even the belt he hit my brother with.
-Esther Altshul Helfgott