By Robert Hershon

Midnight in intensive care
luggage in the hall
We are here with you, mother
trying to read your eyes since
you can either breathe or speak
but not both
and your hands are tied so
you won’t tear out the tubes again
You want to tell your story
one more time
85 years and 95 pounds
of rage that kept your heart ticking
but what ticks anymore? It’s
the age of beeps and tiny lights

Mother’s house without mother
Open any drawer, walk in any room
Put muddy shoes up on the sofa
(if we want to), see whose faces
are torn from photographs
The thousand-year-old cookies taste
like dust, there is no sugar rush

Something wrong with the time
she complains
She can see the giant wall clock
across from her bed but it makes no sense
Need my time bring my time
She points toward her arm
We bring her watch after lunch
and hours from death she smiles

The huge orderly hugs us each
in turn as we enter the room
Soon he will wheel the body away
to a place we can barely imagine
She is lying on the bed as composed
as ivory The gauze band which
frames her face, to prevent the jaw
from falling slack, makes her
look like a carving of a medieval saint

The woman in the next bed
awake now after days of sleep
her old red body flung this way and that
confused, dying herself, but still socialized
asks how is your mother doing
and my sister, who is hearing
how many voices right now, what
choruses of loss and counterpoint
of relief, replies in her kind professional
tone: As well as can be expected

Robert Hershon’s 14th poetry collection, Freeze Frame, was published in 2015 by Pressed Wafer.  Other recent titles include Goldfish and Rose, The German Lunatic and Calls from the Outside World.  Hershon has won two Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and three fellowships from the New York State Council for the Arts.  He has been co-editor of Hanging Loose Press since its founding in 1966.  He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Donna Brooks.  “Gauze” was originally published in The German Lunatic in 2000 by Hanging Loose Press.

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