Jeff Burt

Putting Away

After my neighbor died
with no one left to leave anything to,
we put away photos with faces that had no name,

from her dresser love letters that spoke of picnics in redwoods
and a brook that woke her with the name of her child,
buttons saved in a decorated can, mementos of cashmere sweaters

and plaid shirts that her husband Hal had worn, big flat black buttons
that held her coat together in the storm of eighty-two
that brought the river half-a-mile towards her house,

a tree trunk into the driveway that buried its bark
into Hal’s heart and made him a newspaper footnote.
Words, she wrote in her Bible, are like winter coats

worn in summer concealing truth and joy.
All these cushions on sofas that failed to soften her life,
the long month of sorting, recycling, discarding,

reusing, donating, dumping, burning,
one saved photo on top of our piano of her on a bike
with pigtails flying, a smile broad and, for once, believable


Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods and two-lane roads wide enough for one car. He works in mental health. He has work in The Watershed Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Spry, Atticus Review, and The Monarch Review. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review narrative poetry prize.

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