My mother is dying slowly, every day
shrinking and curling into herself,
as if to hide from a world that would
gift her with such lingering suffering.
Wounds fester, purple and black,
on feet that are now useless.
Arms and hands swell three times
their size with fluid because they
haven't strength to move.
Someone, not a family member,
feeds her, because she can't lift hand
to mouth. Someone, not a family member,
washes and cleans her, not often enough.
And me? It's spring and I'm digging
obsessively, planting flowers, plants and trees
that fruit: fig and lemon, grapefruit and banana.
I'm remembering the colorful dresses she would wear,
the dramatic scarves, exotic rings and bracelets.
I plant blue hydrangeas because she loved them.
She wrote in a journal how she cherished Rilke's poem
"Blue Hydrangea," especially the lines Faded like a washed-out pinafore
No longer worn and of so little use.
Everything I remember from her garden I plant
in mine: plumbago, canna lily, four o'clocks, mint.
With every shovel I cut away roots in the soil,
imagine I'm recreating her as she once was.
With each visit, her mind seems more decayed,
little of her life remembered, confusion
about where she is, and why, though she can still say,
in a voice that is like a child's, I love you.