We shiver in the chilly car
I drive the October night
Air still alive with burning
My mother beside me in the dark
Wrapped in a blanket
My reverse papoose, a diaper, too.
Her hand, freed from the
Woolen shroud, tells me
What the night denies,
Her look that says
This ride will be
The last time I will sit beside
The last time she will sit
Her grasp burns me with the
Blood knowledge of love
Next to me my same flesh
Her only other flesh
And mine, too
We have made it enough for us
My passenger apologizes for her
Un-coiffed hair, chipped nail polish
Long white hairs on her chin,
Like a Mandarin
Her travel costume not couture,
And untied black suede walking shoes,
Over bare feet,
Stained with relief maps of B. M.
Her slippers, all lost to pee,
Matched her robes and boudoir,
I order new ones, cut-velvet
Three colors so she can choose,
Or keep them all
I hold the steering wheel, tight
And reciprocate her hand
I am so small, now
Our fingers link, and like
Sex, I can’t tell where her
Body ends and mine begins
This is how we began, after all
The hospital lights shock us
I stop the car gently
We’re here, mommy
I know, honey. I know.
Once inside she will leave,
Go someplace where I can
Never find her
No matter how long, no matter
How long I drive.
Tell me how to live this beautiful life.
Tell me now.
Help me to make bracelets from tin cans
Christmas wrap from potatoes cut into stars and toilet paper
a gourmet meal from sautéed dice of pillowcase and
hot rollers en brochette to change my watch to an elastic bandage
to drive safely when I am blind
to know when I collapse, how to fall
to read the eyes of strangers when they ask me for change to get home
to ask strangers for change so I can get home,
in their eyes, and mine
to know when I am home and how to act when I am there.
Help me when I collapse.
Pamela Manché Pearce
Published in “The Widows’ Handbook Poetry Anthology,” Kent State University Press 2014