Crossing the Border

For years
you have called
across the border,
asking me to come for tea.

Once you told me
you were clogged with words.
No one would listen long enough.

I'd come to you
across the Pigeon River
and you'd talk
until your tea grew cold.

This is the last time, and
this time, you're scarcely there...
only the shell
that finally cracked
at ninety-eight
to let you go.

I want to save everything...
your velvet jacket
and your afghans,
and the way your fingers raced
around the rosary,

chalking up the graces
you might need one day
to make your way to Grandad,

the man you married secretly
at seventeen,
against your father's will,
taking the night train,

wearing the cape
your mother made
to come from Ireland,

your fingers wanting only
to belong in those dark curls.

I want to save the image of your son,
the one you prayed might
choose the priesthood.

Each morning he would walk
the mile to mass,
wearing the eight-piece cap
you made for him.

He died at twenty
while you slept across the hall,
a ruptured vessel in the night.
The night that split your life in two.

The grief you tended
all these years,
as if it were the child
who took his place.

I want to save the ways you told me
I was like you.
With each visit they increased.
The way you learned, at seventy,
that gratitude
could keep you from despair.

I want to save the red wool coat,
"red as an amaryllis"
that you bought last fall

and wore "to thrill the neighbors,"
parading with your walker
up and down the block
'til winter chased you in.

Your Liberace tapes,
your tea cups,
and the way, for twenty years,
we'd say good-bye, as if this time
might be the last time

and the last time really was.

-- Deb Cooper

Send Comments to Greg Gordon MD, CFI, cydoc@earthlink.net
Last updated: