The Night You Left
—for my mother
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.
by Betsy Mars
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.