Penny Harter
Vintage Fox Furs

I cannot see their faces anymore
when I revisit my great-aunts’ parlor.
I only hear the echoes of the player
piano, or watch my great-aunt’s back
bend over the keyboard as she plays
the familiar carols we are singing
together in the candle-lit room.

But I see two fox furs, whole little
foxes, each snout falling down one
of their shoulders, delicate paws
and bushy tails dangling over the other;
ancient foxes hiding maiden breasts;
tiny foxes whose red-tipped fur once
wrapped fox flesh, warm blood.

I wanted to touch each fox, stroke
its bristling pelt, yet knew they were
dead things, fox remnants hanging
around the neck of one great-aunt
or other—twin dead kits that maybe
dreamed fox dreams while sleeping
blind on the hall mahogany coat-stand.

I don’t know why it’s foxes today,
more vivid than the fading memories
of loved ones who have moved into
that old hotel I visited last night—
its dream corridors papered with sprigs
of lilac from my great-aunts’ parlor,
its ample grounds a haven for the lost.