He woke into an unadorned morning,
nettled with unease, still unsure whether
the news had sunk deep into her.
He had gone to tell her in person,
was scolded for making the trip when
he could just have rung her up on ‘the blower’.
Will run on for thirty seconds at the mouth
about weather and the kids, then all
awkward lips and scattered breaths, say
the words about his brother, her youngest son.
Another graceful intention, another retarded action.
Adventure: side of beef roast wafted through
the floral suffocation of the room and caught her up
in the subject of lunch. “They overcook the beans.”
“Did you hear me, mum? About Robert?”
“I heard you. When you spoke, I turned around.”
Amid the acoustical preface, to Hotel California
he compared her retirement home. Assisted care:
you’ll be checked in any time your kids like.
She had been a looker in her day, legs like fish-hooks
to men’s eyes. She’d had a delightful way of being
able to stand, still in space but somehow out of time.
She was a prize, he thought. And so we beat,
- on boats against the current - each other to her love,
racing skiffs across the waves for her attention.
She had dulled swiftly in memory like wet silver,
still he had no joy to see her staunched in that drudge
of decrepit chats and daytime television. But she
had nestled, confirmed comfort, in her mismatched way:
“If life gives you lemons, you’ve got to crack a few eggs.”
He had gone in person, when the news had come.
And had told her, he reasoned. He should not find worry
with the peace of a paid debt. Of finished business
she knew nothing: each day fresh with unremembered
phrases the nurses would repeat in patience.
This is the hidden backdrop of our age destination:
parenting the parent, mourning the reversal of care.
Today's final poem for Month of Poetry 2012 is based on suggestions from eight people:
@marklawrence: "This is the hidden backdrop of our age" (Wade David, The Wayfinders)
@jayjaycee: "the news had sunk deep into her" (short story by Tiggy Johnson, Crossing, published in Escape, ed. Bronwyn Mehan)
@anthonyeaton: "and so we beat on, boats against the current" (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
@_camer0n: "Another retarded action adventure side of beef" (Kurt Cobain Journals)
@realnixwilliams: "The peace of a paid debt, of finished business" (B.R. Collins, Thyme's End)
@ernmalleyscat: "a delightful way of being able to stand still in space" (Frank Jordan, Create More Butterflies)
@timsterne: "I turned around amid the acoustical preface to 'Hotel California'" (Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch, Ten Walks/Two Talks)
@matchtrick: "The blower will run for thirty seconds" (Owner's Manual, LA Spas (Quest Series))