Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Last Evening

By Sharon Olds

Then we raised the top portion of the bed,
and her head was like a trillium, growing
up, out of the ground, in the woods,
eyes closed, mouth open,
and we put the Battle arias on, and when I
heard the first note, that was it, for me,
I excused myself from the death-room guests,
and went to my mother, and cleared a place
on the mattress, beside her arm, lifting
the tubes, oxygen, dextrose, morphine,
dipping in under them, and letting them
rest on my hair, as if burying myself
under a topsoil of roots, I pulled
the sheet up, over my head,
and touched my forehead and nose and mouth
to her arm, and then, against the warm
solace of her skin, I sobbed full out,
unguarded, as I have not done near her;
and I could feel some barrier between us dissolving,
I could feel myself dissolving it,
moving ever-closer to her through it, till I was
all there. And in her coma nothing
drew her away from giving me the basal
kindness of her presence. When the doctor came in,
he looked at her and said, "I'd say
hours, not days." When he left, I ate
a pear with her, talking us through it,
and walnuts—and a crow, a whole bouquet
of crows came apart, outside the window.
I looked for the moon and said, I'll be right
back, and ran down the hospital hall,
and there, outside the eastern window,
was the waxing gibbous, like a swimmer's head
turned to the side half out of the water, mouth
pulled to the side and back, to take breath,
I could see my young mother, slim
and strong in her navy one-piece, and see,
in memory's dark-blue corridor,
the beauty of her crawl, the hard, graceful
overhand motion, as someone who says,
This way, to the others behind. And I went back,
and sat with her, alone, an hour,
in the quiet, and I felt, almost, not
afraid of losing her, I was so
content to have her beside me, unspeaking,
unseeing, alive.