Folding Memories by Cynthia Trenshaw

Folding Memories

by Cynthia Trenshaw

Four women gather
at a day-room table.
Eleanor smiles expectantly
at no thing in particular.
June stares at the table—
a barrier to where she'd go
if only she could figure why.
Esther is falling into sleep.
Theodora swivels her head seeking
from some corner of the room
an explanation for where she is
and who these people are around her.
"Unh" she says,
and "unh" again, when she finds
no satisfactory answer.

Now, from an upended wicker basket
a cascade of children's clothes
tumbles and stumbles
into their midst
as if the little ones
still wore them, giggling
and looking for attention.
The faces at the day-room table
ignite with joy and recognition.
Arthritic hands finger the fabrics
trace the laces and the appliques
the denims and the bows
the worn places at the knees,
conjure beloved little girls,
rambunctious little boys
from misty images.

The clothes are folded and caressed,
placed tenderly in the empty basket—
beloved children being tucked
into a nap-time crib.
When the basket leaves the table
the joyful alchemy abates,
vague memories recede.
Four lined faces lose their liveliness
until, a little later,
from an upended wicker basket
a cascade of children's clothes
tumbles and stumbles
onto the day-room table.


Cynthia Trenshaw has served as hospital chaplain, midwife to the dying, and massage therapist to homeless people on the streets and under the viaducts of San Francisco. Her nonfiction book, Meeting in the Margins (She Writes Press), won the 2018 Independent Publisher gold medal in Social Issues. Her first book of poetry is Mortal Beings, (Finishing Line Press, 2019). She currently lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, where she posts essays from her website

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