By Nancy Lee
I watch my ninety-one year old mother traverse
the aisles of Walmart in a quest of the perfect white
purse. As if approaching the summit of Everest she
digs into a mountain of mark downs, zips, unzips, buckles,
unbuckles, to find one with pockets for a flip phone, two sets
of keys, three bus schedules and a rescue inhaler she refuses to use.
It must hold an address book of friends, most of whom no longer need an
address, mints, antacids, gum and a magnifying glass the size of a salad plate.
She inspects a suitcase-sized purse that opens accordion-style, compartments
for envelopes of cash labeled food, clothes, medicine as well as space for scissors,
in case her sleeve gets caught in a shopping cart. She leaves nothing to chance, finds
a purse with small sections for comb, lipstick, tweezers, and her wad of credit cards
held together with thick rubber bands. I watch as she peers into each smooth lining,
feels for a safe place to hide her rice paper wallet, the one with my father’s picture glued
on the flap, the one her arthritic hands struggle to open. A purse with memory and function,
a mobile unit slung over her shoulder, rope and pickaxe for the slow, uneven climb ahead.
Nancy Lee writes about childhood in a cramped apartment, Sunday sermons and Sunday suppers, cheap seats at Dodger Stadium, white gogo boots and her first copy of Ms. Magazine. Her poems appear in two volumes of Pepper Lane Review. Also by this poet: "Trick or Treat"