You Can’t Take It With You

My father loses touch with the world we can see
after he cleans out the last drawer.

After worker comps comes in
and the last bill goes out paid.

After he has written down every login
and the first four characters of passwords.

After the trees are pruned,
the rosemary and cilantro clipped back.

The acres and acres of grass mowed.

He was a man who kept tabs
and the last tab was closed,

While he sleeps,
we watch his body in shifts.

I take stock of what I can see
of my father’s belongings.
when he left my mother, he took
the good art only– Not the Smile, Laugh, Love kind:

A photograph of a bee in love
with a rose, a vintage boat obscured
by fog on the Ohio River, a tasteful
sunset that doesn’t try too hard
to be a sunset.

He took no furniture,
a memory foam pillow,
bottles of pain killers.

I go through drawers his quietly and shamefully,
to see what secrets tucked away
he couldn’t bring himself to clean—

anything that might suggest
to us he was more,
than we thought.

And don’t we all wish we could fold in
a few pieces of cherry blossoms here
under our eyelids, between our toes—

a poem or song there
to carry with us on the long ride out.

Every time I leave my father
for the last time,
I pull up cilantro by handfuls,
mint, rosemary—from the root
to take home, but it never
survives the journey.

Rae Hoffman Jager

Rae Hoffman Jager is the author of One Throne (2017). Her most recent manuscript, American Bitch, was a semi-finalist with Sundress Press and Birdcoat Quarterly. Rae’s poetry has appeared most recently in Juke Joint. She has work forthcoming in The Moth and New York Quarterly. Her work has been described as rambunctious, urgent, funny, and elegiac. Rae holds a BA from Warren Wilson College and an MFA from Wichita State University. For more information, you can visit her website at

Contributions by Rae Hoffman Jager