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.