Wednesday, 16 August 2017

HOW TO WATCH YOUR FATHER WATCH YOUR MOTHER DIE

by Lesléa Newman


Sit beside him on a folding chair beside your mother’s bed.
Place a box of tissues between you.
Watch him take your mother’s hand in both his own
and stroke it like a small wounded animal.
Do not speak.
Do not turn on the TV.
Do not shatter the silence around you.
Let time pass.
Listen to your father sigh.
Listen to your father sob.
Hand your father a tissue whenever necessary.
Ask him if he wants food.
Ask him if wants water.
Ask him if he wants to take a walk.
Do not press him when he says no to everything.
Remember the one thing he wants is impossible to give him.
Let more time pass.
When your father gets up to go to the bathroom and says,
“Hold Mom’s hand,” hold your mother’s hand.
When he returns, give your mother’s hand back to your father.
It belongs to him.
Do not tell your father what the hospice nurse told you:
you need to let go so she can let go.
When the sun sets, gather the darkened room
around your shoulders like a cloak.
See your father’s undying love
take your mother’s breath away.


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“How To Watch Your Father Watch Your Mother Die” copyright ©2015 Lesléa Newman, from I Carry My Mother (Headmistress Press, Sequim, WA). Reprinted by permission of the author. Here is a book trailer for I Carry My Mother:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf4ubYHObAM

Lesléa Newman is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, children’s book writer and anthologist whose 70 books include the poetry collections, Still Life with Buddy, Nobody’s MotherSigns of Love, and October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard (novel-in-verse) which received a Stonewall Honor from the American Library Association. Ms. Newman’s literary awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation; the Burning Bush Poetry Prize; and second place runner-up in the Solstice Literary Journal poetry competition. From 2008-2010 she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently she is a faculty member of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing program. Her most recent poetry collection, I Carry My Mother, received the 2016 Golden Crown Literary Society Poetry Award and was named a “Must-Read” title by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.