Lee Passarella

( Lawrenceville, Georgia )

from BFR, Summer 2004


Dead Letters

A “skiff” of snow, we used to call 
this brittle shell that coats the handle 
of the Lenten rose’s parasol of green.

With dictionaries mum about it, 
the word to me was connotation only: 
thin sheet glazed hard like the cluster s & k,
prow of that ship-like word itself.

But here, in my Georgia garden, 
there’s tougher still—these purple buds 
that crane on fat birds’ necks, 
making hungry Lent tumescent.

By noon, the ship will have set sail,
my gelid rose turned a nest of purple 
beaks, open shyly upside down.

I think of houses now, how words propel
or haunt them. I’m a snowbird 
flown the coop for good. My father’s house 

is boarded up this February, 
the Pennsylvania snow thick against the shutters 
that echo with the long-stilled words: 
         shirtwaist box.

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