In Pennsylvania, the grass by the highway snaps
in the wind. Driving west, one exit from my childhood
home, where radio towers and pyramids of road
salt should be familiar, my mind goes blank.
This morning, my mother seemed better: scarlet
color in her face and neck, posture renewed.
She tied the strings at the back of her napkin-paper
gown and asked a nurse for breakfast. I drove
back to her house, elated, and took a shower.
Mom who gave us permanents in the bathtub,
who fed us scalding bulbs of garlic from the pan.
Mom in her perfectly-pressed suits, who decorated
her kitchen with seventy porcelain cows.
I was toweling off when she called, her voice so weak
it snapped. I’m afraid, she said over and over.
She was gone before I got back, the space
around her heart filled to bursting with blood.
Someday I will die, and my own daughter will not
be able to find her way home in the dark.
by Rachel Marie Patterson, first published in Rust + Moth
Editor’s note: This poem describes with exquisite detail the stunning loss of a parent and subsequent disorientation—always unexpected, even when expected.