Mother razes and wipes, razes and wipes,
While the old oak groans beneath her fingers,
Lodging a thin splinter into her palm when,
Ungloved, she smoothes a cross-grained edge.
She dresses the rough-hewn surface with spirits,
Finishes sanding–gentler when the heavy work is done.
I sidle in then, surprise us both
By offering to help.
Together, we wipe the antique chest clean of dust,
Kneel, and knead in stain with long strokes.
The wood darkens and ripples with coiling
Tracks and lines as we brush on the last clear coat.
The heirloom shines in the cluttered garage,
Ready for Mother’s children to fill it, empty it.
We draw ourselves up to our feet, Mother’s
Mottled hands pressed to the small of her back, aching
For a few moments at the looming cleanup, swaying
In fumes. I decide then I’ll catch her if she falls.