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ISSUE:  Spring 2002

My mother’s given up on her dream
of a brand new house. What’s wrong
with what we’ve got, my father doesn’t
say, exactly. “Go ahead” is what he says,
not I built this one myself, it’s where
we’ve lived what life we can recall—
what would I do in a big new place
with nothing familiar? Nor can she say
It would help me. And neither will admit
I’m too weary for this argument.
It’s a slow leukemia she’s fending off—
she could have years, and we take them
as given, rather than track this passing one
for the shadow of when she may be gone.
So, gradually she’s patching new house in
over old. My father wakes disoriented under
his ceiling-fan birthday gift; bangs a hip
on the ornate chest of drawers at night.
New gleaming sink in the bathroom with no
encoded blooms of rust, and above, open wings
of a triple-lighted, three-way mirror—
she says she wants for once to see the back
of her own head. —Where her own mother must
have cupped a hand sometimes, saying darling.


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