Issue Fifteen - October 2009


By Jill McCabe Johnson

I put her to bed, frail as a torn rag,
and tried to erase the images
of her rickety legs at the edge of the chair,
my hands under her bony seat,
her shoulders fretting against mine
as I lifted her hips to standing,
the way she rested her head against my neck,
and I could feel the rattle, chest to chest,
of her fractured breathing.
After pajamas and dentures,
after blankets and a kiss,
I went to the basement where my bed rests,
one floor below hers, perpendicular in attitude,
crosswise, as though I could block where she’s going.
It might have been hours before I fell asleep.
Sleep did come because I remember rousing, lost in night,
only the sound of the wind thrashing the house.
Mom’s bedroom took the brunt of it,
violent blasts. Winter blowing through our lives.
Towed down into that dark sleep, I felt the wind
slash through Mom’s besieged body
and snag her tattered breathing,
like a rag borne into nothingness.
All night I chased after it, searching branches and twigs,
desperate to retrieve Mom’s frayed and threadbare breath.