by Frederick Pollack
The mother rises from the wheelchair.
Her constant aggrieved drone
skids into silence. She extends her hands,
in which hard sour fruits
that long since bloomed in wrist
and knuckle are dissolving, spots
fading. Fingers straighten, search.
Hair darkens, thickens. Muscle reknits
to bone, outline returns
to sight. The sweater, compression hose
and thick black shoes make
her look like wasted talent
in a bad play. But the single jewel,
a brooch, now seems a promise, not a relic.
The smooth cheeks flush with something more
than shock: she hears
intolerable, tolerated years
of herself. And seeks – her whole new mind
a focused flame of apology –
the daughter, who has meanwhile disappeared.
Who runs, herself shedding
wrinkles and pounds as in the most
wholehearted lying commercial, past
and potted palms, through sliding doors.
In her car, she smokes without coughing.
In her mirror, the slimming pantsuit sags,
the careful hairstyle now a halo
of dowdiness. Mother approaches
with love and guilt, and will find her.
Why all this? wonders the daughter.
She seeks me as my whole life sought her.
Death was near; I can admit,
with this new clarity, I was anticipating
years of regretful peace before my own.
It’s too weird… Two girls…
which I suppose we were anyway.
Does eternal youth imply forgiveness?
She starts the ignition, frantic for home
and, suddenly, love. The city
has already turned from wonder to order.
Some outside force like the National Guard
is at work. There are many dead
who must, with whatever qualms, be visited;
and lines move forward, color-coded,
mostly good-natured. Though
one had always believed, somehow,
one’s Lost One would come home,
walk up the steps and knock, it’s understood
that the world would be too crowded. So
they pack some things, turn off the gas,
and walk or take buses
to cities just like this
except for the eagerly awaiting dead.
Most poignant, those – all beautifully young –
under pink or blue banners know
it won’t be people, or even angels,
who hand their children back to them:
that would be too awkward, jealous-making.
Big golden robots, endlessly patient,
deep-voiced, warm and soft to the touch …
something like that. While others,
who wistfully fly a white flag,
pursue someone who left or was never found
to other bars,
and leave the empty earth to loners and lovers.