And I Cannot Bear to Think About the Books

When I am gone


Who will know the value of the Dewey Thompson footstool

Bought in Appalachian coal country?

Five hard-earned singles eased from the back pocket of tight jeans.


For sure my mother’s rings will be labeled soon for nieces,

But what of the Melmac platter, the palest green that favors no décor, scratched,

Though I remember it holding only bread for dinners?


The scalloped plate is new but I recall my Aunt Ruth’s deviled eggs

Each time I make my own.

It will go naked, without memories or recipe.

Its place a thrift shop shelf if lucky,

The local landfill if not.


Keep only what gives you joy, I hear.

If so, what bears the tossing out?

Photos of a younger self,

The teddy bear from an old lover turned new suitor,

Thought better of after the weekend was over.


The phone that doesn’t work but has a parent’s final voicemail message.

“It’s just your mother. It’s Friday afternoon.”



Author’s Comment: Several things inspired this piece, including conversations about building more bookshelves. I keep hearing about the need to “declutter,” and how younger generations do not want their elders’ “stuff.” Friends are downsizing. I cherish the things that surround me and each item is a part of the story of my life. I have no idea how to choose, how to part with any of it. Mostly, I simply do not want to. The price of indecision, however, is that when I am gone, someone else will cart it all away with no love for nor understanding of any of it.




Susan B. Apel’s creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Best of Vine Leaves 2015, Rhizomes, Vignette Review, The Woven Tale Press, and most recently, the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. She writes about local arts on her blog, ArtfulEdge, at, and is a contributing reviewer to arts magazines like The Arts Fuse. She writes a column about legal issues for the newspaper, Vermont Woman. Apel has been a writer since childhood, buoyed by winning a writing contest sponsored by Highlights for Children Magazine when she was 10 years old. Semi-retirement from full-time law teaching has brought the opportunity and the bliss of expanding her writing career. She lives in Lebanon, NH.


  1. Pleasant and poignant. Please do put me on the subscription list, if there is such a thing. Do you need a donation?

  2. This is perfect. I am an artist which may or may not be an excuse for all the possessions I have acquired over my 74 years. and most especially my books which is why the title caught me. I do worry about my children having to deal with all the stuff I have accumulated ..only some of it pertaining to them or their lives but when I expressed this to my best friend she said she had no such qualms because she took care of them and their junk for many years and when she was gone they could damn well take care of hers.
    Thank you Persimmon Tree. This was what so many of us think about and now expressed for all to see and contemplate.

  3. Oh, how you summed up my feelings, as I have been “down-sizing” my possessions. I admit mortality and think of what I have the right to continue to cling to and what will be a burden to “get rid of” for my children. I could hear a woman’s soft voice as I read the poem. Almost brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful!

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