Mother Daughter Suite

“She is survived by her loving daughter, who provided excellent care throughout her long illness…” Obituary in the New York Times

Heavy tray of juices and pills

Ease open the door to yet another day

In stale-air shadows eyes closed —

She breathes.

Sponge and bowl of lukewarm suds

Ignore the pained moans on turning

Never knew human skin could look —

Wince and wash.

More phone calls and hold time

Where is the ID number now?

The one I already gave three times —

Do cell phones cause cancer?

Once or twice this week now she rallies

Life returns to her limpid eyes, her bow mouth

Sarcasm dazzles her brows —

Masking thanks, if thanks.

More phone calls unreturned, friends spurned

Even the children withdraw

From the final battlefield of womb and will —

Of tomb and still.

The house invaded by tech and noise

Hissing bed and fridge of taped bottles

Officious strangers, angels or clowns —

Depending on the shift.

The calendar stops turning, a summer lost

Recliner and TV as beach and sun

Dread becomes yearning prayers —

That can’t be spoken out loud.

After —

So fast —

All ov-

Er —

We nev —

Er —

Shame for the joy and relief

Open the curtains on golden leaf

Gingko and birch carpet the lawn

On this, Dear Mother’s last dawn.

******

“She is survived by her loving daughter, who provided excellent care throughout her long illness…” Obituary in the New York Times

How sweet of you to call —

No, I’m alright….I don’t feel trapped

or anything…no, no…

Her? She’s fine. Same old, same old.

Well, she did have a little trip yesterday

But she only has to wear the cast another six weeks.

The leg.

She’ll be fine

She shouldn’t really be walking

anymore, anyway.

Need anything?

No, I’m fine, thank you.

Yes, quite a storm…

No, she doesn’t ask to see anyone —

At least no one still alive —

And if you did come, she probably wouldn’t —

Oh? You’d like to, anyway — ?

Mmmm

Let me check and call you back. The calendar is —

No, No, I appreciate the thought —

It’s a little hard to have people just now —

The place…

No, no, you shouldn’t bother, you shouldn’t bother…

Honestly we’re fine, but it is taking so long.

Who ever thought someone so frail…

Just like her to hang on like this —

Oh, no, sorry. Don’t mind me.

How sweet of you to call.

******

“She is survived by her loving daughter, who provided excellent care throughout her long illness…” Obituary in the New York Times

Reversal of roles

Scrubbing dissolves memory

As fast as it emerges

Jelly on fingers

Saliva down the chin

The collapse of now into then.

Flying spoon lands

Gerbers or ground chicken

Toothless maw masticates

Cough spew

Wipe and again.

One’s transition puts another’s life on hold

For moments that will later be

The only meaning ever known.

Two women gaze into the mirror of the other

Eye to eye

Circling time

Daughter sees the inescapable future

Mother, the irretrievable past

Eye to eye

Circling time

Memories shared and withheld

Lives intertwined in blossom and thorn

Eye to eye

Circling time

Folding onto itself

Like the sheet of a crib

Or final hands.