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Even a samovar
that rode the boat
with my grandmother, vanished
like the shtetl world
it came from, up in smoke
as if its nickel and its lead
were no harder or more permanent
than a shoe box crammed
with photos of the long-dead;
than table linens
that had been my mother's
cross-stitched dowry;
than oil paintings
that hung for years, then
ran at the first lick
of heat. When fire tore
their house down
to the foundation, it erased
every item my parents owned
from six decades of marriage
-- except one
small Wedgwood dish,
blue and heart-shaped.
I found the dish intact
where flames had whipped
2000 hardbound books
into creamy ash,
but my parents didn't want it.
They'd already started over.
I won't claim I saved it;
I just took the heart
for my mantelpiece.
What saved it was
the ferocious heat
at which Wedgwood bakes
to hardness.


-- Best Poem, New Millennium Writings
reprinted in Finding the Sweet Spot