Your mother tells you the virus levels in her liver
have increased past what is considered fatal.
She can barely tell you this without bursting into tears,
her mortality so clear to her now, it might as well
be on the other side of her bedroom. You’re her son,
but you wish you were a stranger, someone whom she deems
is inappropriate to fall apart in front of, whom she’ll
turn away from and scrub the dishes before she shows
any sign that she isn’t as strong as she’d like you
to think, that she craves tenderness like any human being.
Of course this wish drills a shard of guilt into your stomach.
But you’ve learned to accommodate worst. Loneliness, grief, despair,
what’s a little guilt in comparison? And anyway, what use
can you possibly be to her? The truth is, you’re told,
we’re alone in our suffering. No one can make our pain
any more bearable than what we’re capable of doing ourselves.
At least that’s what you tell yourself. You tell yourself that if
you’re submerged in the freezing waters of a body long enough,
the cold will start to hurt less than your mother’s absence.
When she’s gone, who will you turn to?