Suddenly, my mother
couldn’t call up the noun reverend
this forgetful moment unlike the time
I wracked my brain for the adjective decadent—
Not descendent, not decedent, something like those—
or my daughter, searching for the right verb
conflated catcalling and heckling
accusing men of cackling her
and we cackled with laughter
rendering danger ridiculous
picturing men at a construction site
in their pointy black hats and brooms for canes
circling their cauldron, witchy black birds, crowing.

No, not like that. Too paralyzed to google
synonym for minister
words turned to nightmare feet
too cumbersome to lift
even as dark creatures give chase.
Words became like that street
you just can’t seem to cross in a dream
despite the threat of oncoming cars,
became heavy-lidded eyes
that can’t be pried open.

The reverend who presided
had once proclaimed at Easter
about Jesus’s erection, and my mother
cut short my snort with a glare.
Now, that predator of memory hangs over us
as my daughter says she’s feeling pentative
and I don’t know if she means pensive or tentative.
In my mom’s papers, we find
the cheat sheet she scrawled on the way to the hospital,
words slipping away faster and faster,
toward that final loss of memory,
reverend, it says, and Sidney Treven Sophie Megan,
the names of her grandchildren.

Nancy McCabe is the author of seven books including the memoir, Can This Marriage Be Saved? (Missouri 2020), the creative nonfiction book From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood (Missouri 2014), and the YA novel Vaulting through Time (forthcoming 2023, CamCat). Her work has received a Pushcart.