You came to the hospital to see your mother.
Blue eyes vivid with pain, she looked up
from a field of white linen, her long dark hair
caught to one side of the pillow. Still young,
she was dying, breast gone, ribs scraped bare.
I washed her every day, replaced the dressings,
rubbed her back, spread layers of fresh sheets over her.
We looked forward to your handsome, serious face
your combed dark hair. She smiled only when
you walked into her room. You and I rarely spoke
beyond greetings or questions.
You were twenty-one, her only child.
She grew weaker, frightened. Your eyes
brightened with tears. I too was twenty-one,
first year out of nursing school. We both knew
she wouldn’t be among us in summer.
You lived up the road from my parents’ home.
I saw you drive by some afternoons
when I sat under the maples, reading in the yard.

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