Suzanne McConnell: Heroine

05/18/2007 03:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Now at last I sing of you
Because you are unsung
Mother, Mom, Mama,
Whose given name is Grace

Papa was the dark star
the thunderhead
naturally I gave him my speech:
swallowed, raged, grieved,
forgave

While you were there
like the house I lived in
like growing bones,
skin, air

In illness
now again
he is the acute
you the chronic

Your day revolves around him.
You are small; so is he.
You pull, you haul.
You lean over the regular
back-breaking bed

You with the pain
of arthritis
You with no-breath
emphyzema
You who've lost ten pounds
A small old lady
precious blue eyes

Nightly, daily
you achieve heroine's feats
Pulling down his pajamas
fumbling to remove
the adult diapers
huge on his bony
stroke-struck body
tucking another diaper under
hauling the clean pajamas up
one leg, the other,
the arduous lift and stretch
over hips

Wriggling the damp tee shirt
pushing his well arm through taut sleeve
maneuvering over head
tugging, wrenching
off at last
sliding it down the floppy shrunken limb
You take the clean shirt
start again

You bring him
oatmeal in the morning
fruit processed to a sauce at noon
juice, milk, coke,
three chocolate malts
ground meat and potatoes at night
Turn television on and off
go to the john
nap in between.

You say "I eat well.
Worry has made me thin."
But as you bend
I hear you gasp
I see your shoulder bone
poked up, spread awry
your knuckles big with it
your joints that ache
that know
the rain comes

Papa wants you
to stay on the couch
across from him
to curl up there
while he naps
sitting up in his bed

And you do
You do it all
as you always have.

I sing of you
mother my blue-eyed love
and ask forgiveness
for all my love unsung

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