My mother has forgotten to put on socks.
Window open, she watches the last leaves of fall blow
off our old oak in the yard.
The tire swing bounces in soft bumps against the bark.
Once, she pushed me on it
and quizzed me for Friday’s spelling test.
Now I quiz her.
Did you not realize how cold it is?
Where’s your blanket?
Did you take your Cognex? Your Aricept?
As I close the window, her eyes glass for one second,
as if I look like someone she once knew, but cannot remember where from.
How like time traveling, but always the wrong way, faces more lined than expected.
Finally, Yes, son.
The multicolored oblong tablets, some the size of my thumbnail,
sit untouched on the counter.
The sink is empty.
Did you forget to eat as well?
I make coffee, cereal, give her the pills.
Invent a mnemonic. Coffee, cornflakes, capsules. Every day.
Faculties unfasten, as if our brains have buttons that keep the crazy from coming out.
Cover up. I can see your breath.
She holds a photograph from 1971. In it she smiles with a black cat.
I say, That’s Felix. You told me about him. He died before I was born.
She says, I never had a cat. She looks unsure.
I put on a record. Bob Seger, her favorite.
Turn it off. Too loud. Music today is too loud.
The brain core’s coils loosen. The record breaks. Replay chorus. Repeat.
I sit with her and take the picture, hold her hands, cold and frail like leaves in snow.
She pauses, and I imagine a white light tunneling into eternity,
humming in monotone like technical difficulties (but this is no test),
a guide worse than Ulysses, and
I hope that when the boatman becks, her currency is not out of fashion.
She asks, For what?
About the poem:
I wrote “Hang On” after several phone conversations with my mother. She had returned home to Whitney, Texas to take care of her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I remember her voice breaking over the phone as she said, “When it happens to me, put me in a home. I wouldn’t want you to see me like this.” “Hang On” is a work of fiction in poem form. I imagined myself in my mother’s shoes, taking care of her the way she is taking care of her mother. It’s sources are my deepest fears, loss of mental capacity, loss of memory, loss of my loved ones.
The artist's space.
Murder Two, Winter 2015
Crow Hollow 19