She stored buttons in a drawer
of her Singer Sewing Machine—
a collection of varied sizes and colors—
rose and ivory and pale green
or black with ornamental designs,
sometimes bits of material or thread
still clinging to the back.

While I sat cross-legged at the treadle,
I dug my fingers into the treasure mound
and scooped out a handful.
I piled the buttons on the floor and spread them thin,
to discover a silver thimble or wooden clothespin
like distant kin visiting there.
Here, too, I found metallic buttons with curious symbols—
a bright gold anchor
or a gold eagle inside a star on a field of blue—
that I knew were different from the rest.
But I couldn’t have guessed
these buttons had been cut from uniforms
worn by my uncles in war.
Yet my grandmother stored them
along with hundreds of common buttons
she’d snipped from less lofty clothes,
buttons she supposed she might have
another use for.


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