Because the art of losing is so easy, it’s all the more amazing I still have
this old umbrella: stained, dilapidated, but still capable of shielding me,
my bag, even my shoulders from the rain if it comes down vertically, not
sideways. I know the age of this umbrella, more or less, because it is the
one I gave my mother eons ago, after owning it myself for a while: she
saw it one day, liked it, needed one, and since she was a challenge for gift-
giving, this present worked out perfectly. A seasoned traveler, it lived in
one lumbering sedan and then another, sometimes buried in the trunk,
sometimes flung, still dripping wet, onto the back seat floor. Drought was
common where she lived when she retired, so perhaps, while it was hers,
this umbrella had an easy life. From the trunk of the last white car she
drove until she died, I removed this unintended legacy. It joined the stable
of umbrellas I tend to own: the little auto-open/auto-close model that my
firm presented, costly logo bright upon its surface; a silly one with a duck-
handle my stepdaughter loved and then abandoned when she left for
college; one from the museum store with a Monet on the canopy; even the
truly ancient, slightly-broken one my first love bought for me at Harrods
once upon a time. Too precious to use, that jewel rarely sees a drop of rain.
But then there’s this one, beige canvas—of all the strange materials—its
wooden handle splayed from its original shape, perhaps because it spent
so many years in an iffy climate. I shouldn’t say this relic has some
mystical protection that means it can’t or won’t be lost, but it’s been back
in my hands more than two full decades now, and I use it all the time in
monsoon season. Then I remember to grab it after restaurant meals, and
when concerts end, or library visits, and even on those risky public transit
journeys where it gets stashed beneath the seat, almost begging to be

Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts of the U.S. and on other continents at various times in her life.  Her book-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing).  Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Ambit to Willawaw Journal with stops at Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, Pine Hills Review, Poets Reading the News, The Ekphrastic Review, The Lake, and Whale Road, among others. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit