A squirrel had chewed a roosting place
in the eave of my roof, a pregnant female

as expected, though I didn’t watch
my neighbor set the trap

or haul her body away.
          This is not about the squirrel.

This is about my mother.
That last day I dropped by to see her

on my way to someplace else,
knowing well her broken body

was weakening, yet shocked
to find her in bed on a Sunday afternoon,

musty sheets pulled tight
against her throat.

Her voice was low and raspy,
mine eager to leave.

How did I come to be that person
who turns away? The one who carries

in my pocket heavy stones of something
too painful to name? She needed sleep I said,

my lips on her forehead. I tiptoed out,
urged Daddy to call the doctor

          first thing in the morning.

Barbara Conrad is author of three poetry collections: Wild Plums, There Is a Field and The Gravity of Color; and editor of Waiting for Soup, an anthology from her writing group with house-less folks. Her poems have graced the pages of many journals and anthologies.