The Search

Catherine Barnett

Left on the street in my mother’s neighborhood:

children’s games, utensils,

Ethical Theory, underlined

in blue ink:

“There are certain axiomatic truths…

expected to disappear from the earth.”

But it’s not like we don’t know where my father’s ashes are!

They’re right upstairs, in his study,

where my mother dresses and undresses now.

And I can hear her hand on the banister,

sound of wind.

Soon we’ll go back out, looking for my father’s silver Avalon.

She can’t remember where she parked it.

It’s not in the cemetery we walk past

under trees full of summer fruit.

When I reach to pick one mulberry,

it comes attached to another. My mother

and I must also be looking for my father,

who turns out to have been soft and erasable,

like the #2 lead I use to write in my books,

some of which are my mother’s books,

none of which were my father’s.

I’d recognize their hands anywhere.

Catherine Barnett is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2022 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. She teaches at New York University.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


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