Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last Mug

by Brandy Clark

An empty ashtray, often the centerpiece
of the table. A half-pack of cigarettes
and a silver lighter sat adjacent to the Marlboro urn.

Many times, I found myself across from her
at this kitchen table, my hands busied
by something or another, hers occupied

by a cigarette gripped between two yellowed fingers.
The tip glowed red with each breath in
and tobacco perfume accompanied

each breath out as she talked about
baking apple cobblers and lemon meringue pie,
getting up early to cook meals for her family

during the Depression and doing farm chores after,
or about quitting this damn habit for the umpteenth time.
Now, I sit at this same kitchen table

and look toward an empty chair,
then to a sink cluttered with dishes
from her last meal.I needed to rid myself

of those dishes. Remnants of molded baked beans
and the smell of sour milk wafted from the sink.
It made me want to gag.

She won’t need her plates
or the collection of souvenir coffee mugs
hidden behind cabinet doors.

I throw them away as well, one by one.
The stain of generic Folgers
clung to the inside of each handled dome,

a stain no amount of soap could ever cut through
and a thought went through my mind
before the final cup went in the trash,

a random scrolling marquee:  should I keep it? 
But her lips touched its rim,
and I don’t wish to drink after the dead.