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Feeding My Mother

 
I arrive and you, riled,

                                        raise your right arm, rattle your wrist

 

like a favor, as last week’s Calla lilies

                                        languish in the trash—funny, even when you

 

could speak, there were daily lamentations:

                                        chronic insomnia, the wait for pills, for weeks

 

you suspected a large bird, maybe a heron, was snatching koi

                                        from the courtyard pond.

 

Today it’s ten past five and I know

                                        dinner ‘s late, but Look, I say—I’ve brought

 

a bouquet of Gerbers for your room—

                                        (offering flowers is me asking forgiveness

                                        for my perpetual impatience)

 

and from the chair that swallows you

                                        you lean toward me as if I were light.

 

How your helplessnesses

                                        make the vase

 

of your throat so beautiful, your body

                                        never at rest, pale stalk in a susurrus

 

of wind.  I’m reminded of how you’re slowly

                                        consuming yourself

 

and no matter what I do, or eat, your illness

                                        coats my mouth

 

like a sap.  I watch the antagonistic

                                        movements of your lips as you seek the straw

 

in an imagined root-beer float.

                                        Do you want to tell me something

 

you’ll never say—is it I’m so hungry, is it Why

                                        are you always raising your voice—I witness word

 

after word crawl up out of the dark of you,

                                        teeter on your teeth to fall back down,

 

wings still wet and folded.   The tray arrives

                                        and I place it between us,

 

lift the cover off the plate, reveal

                                        tilapia, sweets, corn, peas,

 

tuck the corner of a paper towel

                                        into the hollow of your neck,

 

but sometimes I can’t bear

                                        to touch what’s left of you with my hands, so I focus

 

on lifting the weighted spoon,

                                        its handle wide as your wrist,

 

your eyes brighten—oh, how you amuse me—

                                        the way those prehensile lips curl around their whitened gums

 

as you take in the flesh,

                                        baring teeth—perhaps in defense

 

of the plate—and before you’re done chewing

                                        you look to me for the next

 

bite.  Soon even this pleasure will be stripped

                                        from you, the day the peristaltic muscles

 

of your throat choose to stop

                                        their wringing.

 

In the corner,

                                        this week’s daisies are already starting to hang

 

their failed heads, soon

                                        there’ll be no more oily flakes of white fish to smear

 

across your chin with my brutal thumb

                                        wrapped in napkin,

 

no more of me

                                        pouring the last of the melted vanilla ice cream

 

straight from the dish onto your tongue,

                                        so now is as good a time as any

 

to tell you

                                        how all of my life I’ve waited to love you like this.

 
 
 

After a successful 20-year career as a regional theater actor, Elisabeth Adwin Edwards has shifted her focus to poetry; her work has appeared in Rogue Agent, ASKEW, Poeticdiversity and Melancholy Hyperbole. She now lives full-time in Los Angeles with her artist-husband, ten-year-old daughter and a tarantula.