I’d come into the room & try to write
a different ending on those anonymous walls.
There was less time all the time
until time changed. You know what I mean.
When you stare at the clock, the walls, that hush
dripping in your head until you feel
you have never been elsewhere. Your world
is a sigh from the bed. A moan. A request
for ice chips. Water. Some news
from the doctor. Where is the doctor?
I tried to read & write. Over & over, I
arranged plain little soaps & toothbrushes & comb.
From our home I brought her own things: hairbrush,
Dove soap & Revlon lipstick. Dolled our darling up.
Washed her weary face. Hair twisted in a ballerina bun.
Used the pink lotion like I was taught or some Kemi Oyl
along her scalp until she purred & slept.
Rubbed thick cream & pulled compression socks
on bony feet we all teased her about.
(My brother gave the funeral director
a blanket to keep them warm
while I fretted about the type of shoes
my mother should wear inside of her
casket.) But before I accepted that idea:
Death: which would be true
five months later, I tried to write my mother
a new, strong beginning. (That’s how crazy I am.)
We slept on the floor of the waiting room.
We drank coffee & ate out of foil or boxes.
We took shifts, stepping in & out of hell.
We never abandoned her. We went out
& walked around Jefferson Hospital
looking for the right food to put some
weight on her. Her body was the only home
I cared about. I watched red & green lines on screens,
wrote of notes & dosages, walked down freakish
hallways after midnight. Bodies snoring, groaning,
farting, whimpering, sighing, screaming in yellow
tunnels. Blank & courteous. My uninsurable mind
would come back to the same idea:
my mother is always going to live
because she is just going to live:
& you know I would begin the list again,
revising the mercy of the God I knew.
I dreamt in the hideous chapel. Prayers drying
on my lips like sugar. I’d rub balm
against my mother’s mouth, hold the straw
while she barely sipped. Shaking her
girlish head if the water wasn’t cold
enough. Then the pain gripped us
too in the irritated drip beneath her
quiet voice. I would speak to her.
Look into brown eyes that I now see
whenever I look into rain.
Sometimes I’d hum alone in the middle of
the night. I didn’t know who
I was trying to save anymore.
My mother was so close to us
I could almost reach
the bad heart stalling
in her body. I believed
if I took more care with her
there would be a god
who cared more than the god
who did not think
about a body, a mother,
or the ache in these stanzas
that still cares.