Unthinkable to her and to her God
to put her husband of forty years
into a home: Simon dying of cancer,
Alzheimer’s erasing more and more
of him with every exhausting,
perilous day of cleaning him
as if an infant in diapers, warding off
his blows when he starts to scream,
“Who are you? Where’s my wife?”

Enid recites her rosary
while tears slice down her cheeks
like shards of Penatentes glass:
a woman in her vigorous sixties,
but almost at the end of her strength,
and refusing to relinquish this labor
of faith and duty and love that’s killing her.

Her sons, visiting for Christmas, beg her,
“It’s past time to put Dad in a home,
or at least get a full-time nurse; we’ll pay.”

She refuse to listen, says only,
“The Lord Jesus gives us strong arms
to help us with out burdens,
and the Blessed Virgin prays for your father,”
clutching a tear-soggy paper tissue:

her husband asleep for the time being,
on this night of Christmas silence.

Robert Cooperman