In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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My Mother dies slowly,
like kudzu, a rose giving itself
back to the winds, petal by tattered petal.
My Mother dies begrudgingly
while summer storms rampage, hurling hailstones down
upon the garden’s young snowpeas, ragging the tender pods,
ripping, uprooting huge thick oaks.
My Mother dies like a carriage candle
in the midnight rain. The guttering flame dances,
spits, sputters, leaping higher, falling away.
She lays time by, misplaces calendars and clocks.
She withdraws, wraps silence about her crooking shoulders,
laughs at empty air, giggling like a mischievous child
at an errant memory. Her unfocused eyes scream
mute questions aloud, questions I cannot field.
Why must I keep fighting now?
If you think I’m enjoying this, you’re crazier
than I ever knew. Which one are you?
Sometimes the sleeping Amazon queen of yesterday wakes.
Her head rears, a cobra’s hood, aching to strike.
Words froth upon her straining lips.
She shakes her head, pees like a baby
everywhere, in her wheelchair, upon the living room carpet,
I strip the bed, roll her to and fro
like a lost top, smoothing the clean sheets
underneath her, then bathe her, rub baby oil
on her swollen legs. I hate to see the sun
come up again somedays, she says. Don’t worry;
everything will be all right . . . while she ruffles my hair
with unsteady fingers. You go to bed early
and be ready come getting-up time.
My Mother dies like light,
as she has ever lived, slow, full, to the hilt,
hard, hard, hard.
Virginia Love Long