In the swarm of arrivals
at the international terminal
an anxious welcomer perches
under oversized monitors,
her two young children
chasing one another,
tugging at each other’s arms,
as anonymous depleted passengers
with luggage carts piled high
stream from a gaping linoleum hallway.

She watches clutching for relief
as others lean consummate
into the waiting arms of loved ones
then whisk themselves off
folded into easy gestures of familiarity.

With each departing cluster,
nagging emptiness grows,
filling her eyes
that settle without recognition
over the faces of each emerging traveler.

The minutes drip by.
Her children bump in boredom
against her,
the face of their auntie dimmed
from memory.

Then without words,
distance shrinks
between two grown sisters,
separated halves,
any differences forgotten,
as their reaching arms touch.

Apartment 3201

Her doorstop hangs from one bolt,
no longer two,
attached through an ever expanding hole,
still not ready to let go.

Four mismatched chairs of varying height
circle her seventy-five-year-old dining table,
a wedding present,
still offering a venue for meals.

Her junk mail pushed aside
making room for two vinyl placemats
frayed at the edges,
still protecting the thinning finish below.

The worn seam on her sofa
sags where well-wishers
have relieved their weight.
Still, more are welcome,
coming with flowers and gifts.

A darkened track on her carpet
leads to her bedroom
where she lies eighteen hours a day
in a rented metal bed
with adjustable height and tilt
its removable sides offering needless safety
as she occupies only space in the middle.

Her aging back is flat down
just where a caregiver put her,
never moving,
eyes closed,
mouth open,
as the cobwebs of sleep embrace her.

Later she wakens,
less left of her than yesterday.
No words fill her mouth,
only breathing.

The routine unfolds.
Wash her.
Dress her.
Comb her hair.
Take her vitals.
Feed her.
Repeat tomorrow.
Pattern is paramount
though I weep for its ways.

Emptier than Empty

Handel’s Messiah
swells in my living room.
Colored globes
glisten from my tree.
Christmas blooms
like daffodils in spring,
but still emptiness
like a tumor grows.

From an old LP,
the gentle strains of The First Noel
flood my mother’s living room.
Paper hearts with m&m’s inside
hung from her tree.
The green tablecloth with a red felt bow
made with her own hand.
Rhymes she wrote
on green and red packages
when fingers were nimble
and cognition was keen.

From thousands of miles away
my persistent recollections
mingle with Handel
in an empty stillness
while a family who never knew
my mother
inhabits her house.
The bench in her name
is all that’s left,
anchored across the street
in the park
that shepherds a faded past.