Two poems by Laura Bayless

FOOTNOTES TO MY MOTHER

At the close of your life another beginning
for both of us and
certain tangible memories remain.

your face as you read my last post card
with its gray-rimmed tearstains
that came in the mailbox from camp
after it was over…
please come take me home

the haystack pile of crisp homemade French fries
you cut and dry in a dish towel,
frizzle in hot grease,
growing cold on their offertory platter
as we wait dinner for father
again

the wire and crepe paper petals you form
for my Butterfly Parade fuchsia costume,
your mouth petulant while your hands
curve and pinch the brittle tissue
into sepals, corolla and calyx

and much later, at 88
suppressed small groans escape
as you rise to transfer from recliner
to wheelchair, to click of bone
against bone in your knees
all buffer to pain disintegrating
near the end you welcome

For years I compared my obstructed life
to your linear journey,
your one great loss my father's early death,
my losses a series of tsunamis
engulfing me over and over,
teaching me to kick to the surface for precious breath.

It wasn't until near the end, and now
that your gone, that I see
how you must have ached
watching me swim.

ANY UNFINISHED BUSINESS

A perfectly round mottled white moon
hovers over the ridge top at dawn,
not ready to descend.
I remember
how I left her to cross over
in the company of the morning shift,
the ministrations of trained hands.

The tableau remains, narrow
metal frame bed,
sheets whiter
than the moon,
fraudulent pink walls,
thin curtain between roommates
a fallible concession to privacy.

An inadequate minstrel,
I hold her arm,
sing somewhere
over the rainbow,
wanting her to dream in color.

Death knows no limit
to indignity,
steals her flame
in relentless increments,
subduing her mobility to one
restless arthritic hand rising
to beckon her deliverance.

She, in pain, knows it is hard
watching her die,
chases me from the futility
of final hours
with a drawn out wail.

What else could I have done.

Laura Bayless