Each day she dozes in her wheelchair
by the door, a fixture expected,
unseen. She startles, wakes,
tries to rise and walk away
as though propelled by some dream
memory, or perhaps a twitchy neuron
like a phantom limb. She staggers, topples,
legs unwieldy as fallen oaks.
We are both mired in the present tense ––
she preserved like a relic in a time capsule,
a bit of tattered silk and lace, now silent
and mostly still, an unread book. Slipped
from her life like discarded clothes, like
naked implications. Her wasted flesh
like baggy stockings. A small brown mole
crawls up one cheek. I hold her hand,
a bag of baby bones. We wait.
I do not laugh when she drops an olive
into a glass of wine, butter into hot tea,
rubs deodorant on her face. Fragrant,
her garbled words drift like steam
but still her laughter seems real.
She sits all day, unlearning what can only be
the past –– there is no future, tense
or otherwise. Her face in shadow now,
altered light or trick of imagination,
a dull eclipse. Or need. Too soon,
I want to say, but that afterimage.
Eyes like frosted windowpanes.
Order The Mysteries of Fishing and Flight, a poetry collection by Jacqueline K. Powers here.