A nurse glides close to change the stained pillow
and to administer medicine
with the exaggerated courtesy
of one accustomed to death. Eyes closed,
expunged by the syringe, sliding naked
into a cool pool, far from the knife-sharp
shriek of boiling pain away, does she
think of us here, toasting her and each
other with stained linen napkins and
glasses of dark wine raised, chatting as
we drink, dressed like flowers pressed into books
in our patterned blouses and brown suits,
in the convention hall’s land of relative
health, at the academic conference
she dedicated so much of her life to,
even this year laying out the place settings
precise, considerate for our comfort, her soft
hands doing their last good work, before dying.

Lisa Low’s essays, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The Boston Review, The Tupelo Quarterly, and The Adroit Journal. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of literary journals, among them Valparaiso Poetry Review, Phoebe, American Journal of Poetry, Delmarva Review, and Tusculum Review.