Apr/May 2019 Poetry Special Feature

Taking Care of Dad, After Mom

by Kathleen Latham

Excerpted imagery from photography by Kris Saknussemm

Excerpted imagery from photography by Kris Saknussemm

Taking Care of Dad, After Mom

You will dust the shelves, sweep the floor, strip the sheets
from the king-sized bed—suddenly obscene in the space
it takes and fails to fill

sit beside him while the TV drones, ready to distract at
the slightest mention of wedding rings, blood clots,
or life insurance

answer the door to well-meaning neighbors who still
stop by with cookies and casseroles and unanswered

face the worst of yourself when every one of these gray-haired,
weak-kneed visitors reminds you that they are alive and your
mother isn't—an injustice so harsh you'll be forced to

clamp your mouth shut while bitterness and rage dissolve on
your tongue like bad medicine, excoriating whatever niceties
you might have managed, yet still you will

present those casseroles on shaky plates, perch them
on side tables where they will go uneaten—their very
presence a reminder neither of you can stomach.

This wasn't the plan, he will tell you, over and over, until you
see that already he is less than he was, that you are losing him
in a slow, tortuous ebbing even though you try and try and

try to remind him what is left living for, that you are
in this together, but he doesn't hear you, he doesn't
recognize what you have lost, so you will be

forced to be a spectator, a witness, and you will miss
your mom so much that you will run out of words
and he will mistake your silence for listening.

Later, you will sit on the floor of the guest room, nursing
your own pain, cradling it, feeling like a stranger
in a lop-sided house.


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