I came to watch and wait as you lay unspeaking, mother-sitting duty. You in your purple parachute jogging set, propped up on pillows on your queen-sized bed.
I noticed you had squirreled away food in the prednisone-swollen pouches of your cheeks — not for winter, which was just then passing — but one last attempt to please my father as he spooned in breakfast before he left for a meeting.
I didn’t know then all the signs I would later learn from hospice pamphlets, but my mind burned on high alert. I changed your Depends, heavy with urine, made note of the darkness, figured your kidneys must be slowing down.
We were silent all day. I bathed and clothed you. I never said the words I love you. I sprayed your wrists with cologne, called my brother to come, kept you home until you were ready to leave on your own.
Editor’s Note: This poem feels very matter-of-fact—an easy itinerary of sorrow, until the punch at the end where every reader will wish to tell the speaker that her mother doesn’t need the words to know the love is there.
Sometimes, as now, the light’s enough, the sun behind a massive cloud that sweeps like sea across the blue. The birds are still; songs sung, they’re quiet, gone. The tree and stream agree that silence is what’s needed now—as if, for this brief once, the clock has stopped. On hold, the sky, the leaves, white flash of wings—this is the world as poem upon a page, untold. The fan still whirrs, and that is all I hear, like water far away. The books that burst with languages are dumb, and each appears exactly as it is. The world’s been purged of Time. Is this a warning or a gift? I think it’s both, like any granted wish.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: Careful punctuation creates space in this sonnet for the reader to breathe in the imagery and worry woven into the lines.
The others retired with spoons to their rooms but you chose a fork and stayed in the dining hall, swaying, eyes closed, to music more distant than you could imagine, your thumbs caressing the curve of its handle, feeling its warmth, its stainless acceptance, you and the fork attuned, waltzing and bending across a ballroom, bending to the pulse of music unheard.
Editor’s Addendum: Please accept my most humble apologies for the incorrect attribution given to the previous post of this poem. I messed up, and I am very sorry.
She views the world through touch. Faint throbs of thread relay what prey is trapped, what class of mate draws near, what bird has come to satiate its greedy gut. The ring of string has spread like ripples on a pond. Inside her head a tiny brain unravels all the facts. Her spokes have spoken to her. She reacts quick as a wingbeat. Will she be well-fed?
One evening, groping through a grove, you mangle the moonlit sanctuary of some spinner serenely poised to pounce upon her dinner. Face full of filaments, you watch her dangle then disappear. You flee the fangs of night, not knowing she’s too sensible to bite.
by Martin J. Elster
Editor’s Note: This sonnet begins with a mystery (who is this creature?), but soon enough, we realize that a spider is the central character terrifying the speaker.
In the memory care unit, everyone seems pleased to see you — partly because they believe you are someone else — a wayward son not spoken to in years, or the first boy to have uttered the word love as though it were a fact, as solid as a tree or the ground from which it emerged. You walk behind the floor scrubber as quietly as you can, your measured pace slower than a monk’s in procession, making certain that no water streams behind. You have been called by many names here, always smiling and nodding in return. You have felt the presence of those lives passing through for perhaps the final time. You can’t help but think of your own mother, how she longed for nothing more than to forget, to forget, the ECT doing its best to pinpoint the exact intersections of her pain; how she forgot, too, the names of her sons when she called from the next room or considered them questioningly at dinner, a stage actress fumbling for her next line. Perhaps the Vedic masters had it right all along: this world, however convincing, is merely a passing show. God plays every part. God holds a cardboard sign by the freeway, makes your latte, calls you handsome. We are divine against all logic and evidence. We are divine, even as we soil ourselves, stumbling back to the newness of childhood, not yet able to write our own names, knowing only the comfort of their music, the familiar shape they carve into air.
by Greg Watson
Editor’s Note: This heartache of a poem begins compassionately, if impersonally, but soon narrows down to a very personal sorrow. Repetition hammers home the sadness of the speaker, but the closing lines show how grief is also part of life, and precious despite the pain.
I bought a shepherd hut, where I could write— Not being buttonholed, nor reached by phone— And parked it in my garden, out of sight, So all the world would leave me well alone. Here I would craft a novel or a play, Entirely undisturbed by daily chores, Protected from distractions night and day … However, once I hid behind its doors, Excruciating writer’s block attacked Relentlessly, until I came to see Distractions served the food for thought I lacked— Hermitic exile fed no muse for me! … Up to my study’s bustle I returned To write—and sell the hut, my lesson learned!
Editor’s Note: Every writer knows that distraction is the enemy of the mind, but sometimes the very thing that we think is going to solve that problem becomes the problem, as this hilarious sonnet demonstrates.