fam painting1
by Larry D. Thacker

Emptying multiple junk drawers while packing up house for move.

Kitchen drawer #1: 15 receipts, medicine bag stuffed full of check stubs, rusty bread knife, two butter knives, two forks, mostly empty crushed box of plastic forks, spoons, and knives (probably from an annual 4th of July family reunion), 6 batteries of varying sizes (unknown remaining battery lives), one red flip phone, small handful of miscellaneous junk mail, partial used bag of napkins, plastic-wrapped Sponge Bob figurine (unopened) (assumed a prize from a cereal box).

     Prize. Noun. Something given to reward the winner of a competition.

We live in a culture when, as a child, eating your way to the bottom of a box of sugar-coated carb pops deserves recognition by means of a toy in visage of a cultural cartoon icon.

I liked the little statue and put it in my pocket. I’ve always liked Sponge Bob. It’s sitting on my writing desk now, waving at me with a big congratulatory smile. Some time later I looked up the little trinket and found someone selling one like it for fifty dollars. Damn, I thought. And I had opened the plastic cover and ruined its value.

Next: At least twenty similar drawers to rifle through in the house before move day.

     Serial. Adj. Repeating the same predictable behavior.

My father is out at the burn barrel torching ephemera. We’ve learned not to be too hasty in our emptying of junk drawers. The day before, my mother, him, and I were working through a few drawers in the dining room when my mother happened over an old letter. At a glance it could have been an old bill or a receipt. But this one was a letter from my father to her, 1970, from South Korea. My mother was pregnant with my sister at the time. My mother was living two doors down from the house they’re in now, with my grandfather. She’s taking care of me, barely a year old and my ailing grandmother. She will have my sister without my father by her side, the army decides. He will not be granted leave. He reads the letter out loud. It’s about the normal things you would want to say and know in such an arrangement. How is she? How am I? He quotes how much money they have in the bank, which, he says, is pretty good for their age. He asks if she’s yet received the money he sent. He tells her — I love you, I love you, I love you. Maybe this was for all three of us. Maybe it was just for my mother. Maybe, standing there, enlightened by this intimate moment so many decades later, it’s still just none of my business.

AUTHOR’S IMAGE CAPTION: My father painted this family portrait not long after the letters in the poem were written and after my sister was born.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a recent poem on my mother and father’s difficult move (in fact the entire block is moving after two blocks have been gobbled up by a store that’s expanding). This is only one of what feels like a hundred moments a day in the process of abandoning a home that will be razed and paved over soon.

wvw pic of me

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Larry D. Thacker is a writer and artist from Tennessee. His poetry can be found in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, and Appalachian Heritage. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia and the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train. He is presently taking his MFA in poetry and fiction at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit him at larrydthacker.com.