Sally O’Dowd is the author of the poetry collection Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss.

It took two-and-a-half weeks to unpack

Finding a new routine
without you
needn’t be a race;
putting away the suitcase
would make our good-bye
more definitive.

I brought many
of your belongings
back to New York,
my one-bedroom
now a grotto
awaiting the echo
of your hello’s …

Your closet was a basket
of cotton memories
in lavender sachets:
I was a teenager
when you wore
the flowered blouse
with mandarin collar
in gold, peach, black, and gray.

As I buttoned the sleeve,
my mind activated the scene:
You’re on the couch
with Dolores from up the street,
your friend with the long nails
painted pearly white,
bangles on her wrists, chime;
you both holding a cigarette
and glasses of white wine.

Your vanity was filled
with creams and makeup,
your effervescence a mix
of berry flirtations,
silver-spun rose, champagne.
Jars and lipstick cases.
Your fingerprints,
will be safe with me


Wanted you to know
I have the wedding rings:
The diamond sits high
on yellow gold.
I don’t wear them every day,
but when I do
I feel your hand over mine,
a weight descending
from somewhere I can’t place.

Over the years,
you gave me your heart
and I returned the favor;
the pink crystal necklace
you wore so often,
the amber I bought
for each of us
– connection from afar.
The one with the teeny rubies,
I have that heart now, too.

How could we forget the piece
I bought for you in Dublin,
the one with Celtic circles
and four-leaf clovers:

I wore it to the funeral
with another necklace
appearing that morning
on my dresser,
a blue amulet of Mary.
You must have put it there,
— I don’t remember.

On that cold day at the cemetery,
the maternal metal kept me warm
and the clovers wished you well,
as I watched men
with squeaky pulleys
lower your casket
into the ground.


Hardly an occasion
went unrecorded
by your hands . . .

The photo of me standing
as a toddler in a light blue dress,
holding the telephone,
is next to one of you and Dad,
among sympathy cards.

In another I am six,
on a chair in the living room,
my posture correct,
my hands folded on my lap,
I don’t remember the occasion;
given the green polka dots,
you had dressed me for spring.


As I got older
people noted our resemblance:
Just days before you left,
you told me
I was beautiful
after coming downstairs,
fresh after a shower,
with red lipstick on.

“What’s Left” is a poem in Sally O’Dowd’s series Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss. It was originally published by Literati Magazine. Louisa L’s artwork also appears in “Dancing to Fleetwood Mac on Vinyl.” You can view other examples of Louisa’s exceptional work at and Instagram @louisl1 .

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