20 December, 2009

Water and Words
      With thanks to Emily Dickinson

The only thing my mother feared of death
was the pain she wasn't sure
a woman her age should have to take

who was too old in her stooping years
to be afraid of God, needles, enemas,
or children's nagging tongues.

We tried to mother her the way grown sons
think they have the right, the supporting arm
around the folded wings, the voice straight

out of Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda.
I'd never use that voice with my own kids,
they'd laugh me out of the neighborhood.

I know enough I'd never try such guddle
with my history classes of oldfaced high-
schoolers chewing on the lessons of the past

with certain smirks before they rested their fore-
heads on the kidneyed desks they'd about outgrown.
But with a mother I never understood would die

I used forgive me life the sickly touch of sons
when all she wanted was a cool glass of spring
water to wash away the fog in her throat,
water that had been someplace holy, that

and a couple answers to a crossword puzzle,
just a couple hints so she could finish off
the Sunday Times for once, for good and all,
and guess that it and all things else were right.

~ ~ Martin Galvin

Published in Poetry Magazine (March, 2000).