From The Poetry Alarm Clock:

There are tears of things, and mortal matters touch the mind.
-Vergil’s Aeneid

My father-in-law, the Colonel,
I recall him sitting in the Lazy-Boy,
Venetian blinds cutting the midday haze.
“You need socks, son? I’ll give you socks.”

He leaves the den, comes back arms full,
olive green, navy blue, chocolate brown,
and one pair the color of Russian dressing:
the Colonel’s orange socks.

Gold Cups, bought in the Army PX, thirty years ago.
The orange ones my husband never wore are mine now.
Having survived our breakup, divorce, relocation,
these socks are faithful witness to something,
and they’re even back in style.

“I’ve always had good luck with daughters-in-law,”
He told me once, grinning as he reached for the tobacco,
the same hands that once cleaned a rifle now cleaning a pipe.
Too bad there were so many of us, I thought, but held my tongue.
His son I could do without, but the Colonel I would keep.

I saw him one more time last summer.
The medicine by the kitchen sink told me he didn’t have long,
rows and rows of orange bottles, upright like
defeated soldiers on a barefoot march home.

“I want something of his,” I whispered to my Ex.” Anything.”

“Maybe a golf ball of his? No, my brother wants the whole collection.
I’ll find you something,” he assured me.
I think he meant it, but I never heard from him.

Ex-daughters-in-law, even favorite ones, don’t inherit things,
The silver, the dishes, once for me, now stored in strangers’ basements.
For mementos, if not footwear, I am on my own.
Still it helps to have something warm on my feet
as I prowl the cold corridors of what used to be.