Close to the End

It was close to the end when Daddy said

get her out of here, though he’d insisted

he could manage her care, which he thought

meant fixing a plate of runny-side-up eggs and

limp bacon every day (neither of which did she

ever eat because in her mind, when it was still

a mind, that shit was never what she would call

food), and settling her onto the couch with a blanket

and a cup of coffee so he could watch TV and she

could need nothing until dinner. So he was undone

when she never again made it to the bathroom in time

and the sheets were always in the wash, and when

the combative days came on like a thunderstorm out

of her clear blue eyes so she screamed when he woke

her and called him every god damn name but the one

his mother gave him, flailed as he dressed her and sent

the hated eggs sailing in an arc that mimicked her

decline, he threw in the towels: bath, dish and paper,

and confessed she was more than he could handle.

We came with assurance that the move would be swift

and she would be happy which was code for “someone

who knows what the hell they’re doing will change her

diapers and feed her and treat her like the baby she has

become instead of the surly wife you think does what

she does to spite you.” We packed a bag and bathed

her and when she handed me her teeth I understood

Daddy in a way I didn’t want, then scrubbed with

janitorial fury anyway and tucked them in fast to

cover the naked gums she had never allowed her

children to see. As we drove to the place where

she died six weeks on, she kept asking, over

and over and over again, “Do I know you?”


©Dana Hughes 8.25.18

2 thoughts on “Close to the End

  1. Every time I read one of your poems about your mom or dad, I am struck with your ability to pack so much feeling into such a tightly controlled package. It fairly trembles with emotional power. Sometimes you create a phrase that just rings with power. Other times, like this one, it’s not the phrases but the pictures they draw, and the accessibility of the language. It’s beautifully executed, as all your poems are, but the beauty lies in the raw directness of the language. I feel like I’ve been there.

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