when my mother came to visit

we ate out
every time
there was nothing to do.

she hunched.

i said
“Straighten up!”
walked winding rail
tracks smelling creosote
she said
“I’ve had it,”
and back to the car
slow.

we spoke little.

the ghost in her reproach,
squalls of shame:
night coming on
for her.

i held her off
in embrace.
the lines in her face
wide.
her lipstick,
smear.

she couldn’t sleep
so i promised not to drink.
that way
she wouldn’t have to stay up
and wait for me.

she will always wait for me
—i imagine—
she will wait for me
as she lies dying.
i don’t know why,
i don’t know why.

she cleaned up the place,
scolded the cats,
watered all the plants,
except for two smaller ones
that died in the sun of August
—inches apart,
inches from the hose.

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