I wrote this, after my sister asked what I thought our parents would have thought about this pandemic. Of blessed memory: Arthur J. Isaac, Jr., born, 1917; died, 1991. Jacquelin Fihn Isaac, born, 1927; died, 2012.

String, Foil, and Bands

I remember roaming
in my mother’s kitchen,
its German rectitude,
“a place for everything,
and everything in its place.”

Mom would put away the clean dishes,
each on their proper shelf.
I would visit the junk drawer,
a collected landing of oddments,
whatever had no other nest.

A small pull of normalcy
for what could not be discarded,
for what might be useful someday.
This smallest drawer smelled of care,
of collecting what might serve
— when we faced a sudden need —
“The junk drawer!”

Old keys, batteries, a bent screwdriver
— well used occupants of the junk drawer.
But three balls, always there,
string, foil, and bands,
had never been put to work.

My 10-year-old hand
would hold each ball:
string, foil, and bands,
turning them over, comparing weight, texture,
and their bounce on the counter.

“Why do we have these balls?”
“Where did they come from?”
“Why are they this big? Why this small?”
“If you had a fourth ball, what would it be?”

Among the answers:
“They might come in handy.”

But her beautiful smile suggested
I did not understand,
that these balls were more than
string, foil, and bands.

They were my mother’s
fear, uncertainty, and doubt,
insurance against deprivation.

What will be our balls of
string, foil, and bands?
What in our junk drawers
will protect us when we recover
the illusion of immortality?

Here is a video excerpt from a Poetry Circle, where poets read their poems to each other for encouragement and feedback, with a live (muted) audience. In this excerpt, I read “String, Foil, and Bands,” and hear comments from Beth Weinstock and Amy Greenberg.