I spent the beginning of my 30’s watching my mother
Dispense nervous energy like the crude oil of her mid 50’s.
I crow over her, mesmerized.
A blank child watching my favorite wind up toy tire itself.
I am careful with what’s left of her.
I am her personal cheerleader.
My team shirt says, “Sit down and let me help you.”
I watch her green beans sweat and her desserts set up.
Then I ask, “What else? What now? See shirt.”
Something behind her eyes crumbles
When she hears the news that her sisters aren’t coming.
She fingers the fake flower bouquets resevered for the grave cleaning,
Readjusts, adds more color, and tilts her head for my approval.
I know this game as soon as she creates it.
It’s called, ‘If we add the right flowers then it will be okay
for a minute that everything is different
and no one is showing up for Memorial day.’
We’re like the blown up photo of a family that used to exist,
Made into cardboard cutouts and propped up like scarecrows.
I don’t know when the set up became my mother’s reluctant duty.
Her job, on top of all others,
to set the scene of ‘family’ with such scarce resources.
She sits down for less than an hour at 11:30 p.m.
I hear the clink of her coffee spoon jingling “good morning” at 4:45 a.m.
Five hours is not enough sleep to rest.
But enough, she says, for a tired nurse,
still a full decade away from retirement.
I don’t get up.
5 a.m. is the closest thing to peace I watch her give herself.
Instead, I sit in the dark and write this poem,
and listen to her spoon ring against her cup like a secret bird song
only I can decipher.
Like a bell it sings to me:
“Hurry, time is precious and we’ve run out of all that was left to waste.”