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Wednesday, May 13, 2020


by Jennifer Freed

file photo

My mother sits in her kitchen while I stand
on her patio, our palms pressed
to the sliding glass door
as we speak on our phones.

She must have misplaced her glasses today. I notice
the shape of her cheekbones, how much warmth
in her eyes. She beams
as she did in the hospital, those first dreamy weeks
after her stroke, before
she understood.                                            
Today she is radiant, more radiant than I have seen her
in over a year. Today she is the most beautiful
woman I have ever seen.

We do not go near what hovers around us—
this lesson floating on the air
we don’t dare to share. I don’t know when or whether
I’ll ever touch her again.
But right now, if she has considered how long
these strange days may go on,
she isn’t dwelling on it. She is smiling. We can’t seem to stop

I remember how brightly she laughed when she first
tried to stand after her stroke (My legs fell asleep!)
I remember her ease with the nurse
holding her up (We’re slow dancing!)
in front of the commode while a second nurse
cleaned her behind.
Now she says, as she says every day when I call,
that she hasn’t done anything
useful—but today
she’s decided it’s okay, she is lucky
to have help, she’s letting herself
be happy that she can be
queen for a while.
I draw a heart on the glass, kiss it.
She grasps her walker, pushes to stand, kisses back.

My father comes into the room, waves his hello.
She hands him the phone, asks him to tell me
what she’s been struggling to arrange into
words—what they learned on that documentary yesterday.
Wonder and pleasure move over her face
at the ease of his language—ancient Egypt, pharaohs
and deities—but I am not really listening
because she is leaning her head back against his body
as he stands behind her chair, and he
is resting his palm on her arm,
and I watch her drifting
on the rise and fall of his voice. I watch her
gazing out at the sky, at the trees, at me.
She finds my eyes, mouths, I love you,

and I am still
standing outside the glass door, taking all of this in.

Jennifer Freed is staying home with her family in Massachusetts.  Her poetry has appeared/is forthcoming in various journals, including Atlanta Review, Comstock Review, Worcester Review, and Zone 3.