It is that moment when the moon
is a glaring crescent,
slowly engulfed by
the impending night—
when the few clouds give out
their fading glow
in the jaundiced light
of the sodium arc street lamp.
It nestles the curb—at first a small bird—
when touched, a twisted piece of root.
I want to walk into the weed-strewn
aging cemetery, stand in the shadow
of the expressway, peel
the uncut grass from around her headstone.
her arthritic hands clutching mine,
in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling
of vinyl camphor borsht.
I saw her last in a hospital bed
where they catalog and store
those awaiting death, stared
at the well-tubed skeleton
barely indenting starched white sheets.
She smiled wanly and whispershouted
my name—I held my ground
unable to cross the river of years
unwilling to touch
her outstretched hand. She had
no face then, no face now, only
an even fainter smell of age
of camphor of lilac of must.
Next to the polished headstone
lies a small, twisted root.
I wish it were a bird
I could place gently
on the lowest branch of the old maple
that oversees her slow departure.
First published in Rattle #23, Spring 2005