Kate Peper

End of the Line

My German great uncle lost all
five sons in WWII, placed
the telegrams with their photos
between pages of the family Bible:
We will endure as God wills.
Five gold stars on the jamb.

Our aunt survived two husbands,
had no children.
In her wingback chair
she told my mother exactly
where all she owned would go:
My spirit to Heaven, everything
else is labeled. Under each lamp,
porcelain bird, and bookend,
a name on a piece of tape.

At eighteen, I learned
I couldn’t have children.
On a plastic torso the doctor
covered the uterus and vagina
with his palm and said:
These parts are missing,
but you have functioning ovaries.

I didn’t hear his voice after that,
just imagined each egg released
into her own dark passage,
entering a terminal without lights,
with no one to meet her.