We heard from the mortician,
“We have your mother here,”
last rites, identification, cremation,
all digital, from a prudent distance.
Gratefully, a cousin picked up her ashes,
weighty, weighty box of gray grit.
In the Nazareth Apartments,
assisted living for poor Catholics,
somewhere in downtown Columbus,
our mother died alone.
No one should, so they say.
Our mother delivered violence
to our lives, smashed plates,
threw coffee cups (her aim quite true),
shredded shirts. Dad hid his shotguns.
That got our attention. The profanity,
though inventive, was shocking, caustic,
irreversible for my sister and me.
Stones of apprehension filled
our bellies with hard, sharp meals.
Though the heavy pall lifted,
I regret (a prerequisite?). I wept
a little for our cruel, manic mother.
She died serenely, sweetly
in her sleep, altogether oblivious
except she began to consider each night,
“I won’t likely wake up this time.”
Or, alert and helpless, she suffered
and saw the arrival of her last breath
with no one to comfort her, no appropriate
ration of reassurance, however feigned.
She called out her mother’s name
(And who did Dorothy Snow call upon?
It seems to be an endless, inherited
expectation and a natural inclination.)
No, she called out our names, her children,
surely her children, however estranged.
We’ll never know as our mother died alone.
No one should, so they say.