Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire; your children all roam.
Grief washes over me in surprising waves,
currents flowing into eddies
in the folds of my brain.
She fidgets in the nursing home;
picking feathers off false birds
needing no tending.
Beautiful colors for a dull room, I think –
scarlet and indigo reminders
of wild and winged things
she once loved and cared for.
Pick, pick, plucking plumage,
yanking out eyes;
destroying, yet somehow not destructive.
She needs something to do with her hands,
I tell my sister.
Tomorrow, let’s get her crochet needle,
a skein of yarn.
She won’t use them, I’m telling you.
I decide to press on anyway.
Sure enough, we bring them
and she is unable to make sense of the gift.
Distracted now by a floating feather
she laughs, beyond amused.
We blow it up and over her head,
again and again just to hear her mirth;
behold dull eyes lit up and dancing.
My sister weaves a chain of yarn,
causing Mom to smile and laugh out loud
at her apparent ineptitude.
These are the last days of her life,
though we don’t quite know it yet.
When we clean out her house,
boxes upon boxes of thread and yarn,
needles and hooks;
fabric and lace and paintings and frames;
ornaments and wreaths and tiny figurines
and every single letter and postcard
I had ever written her.
Every envelope, stamp and business card;
photos and silly little mementos
tucked into drawers and boxes.
I do not know what to make of these memories;
can not take it all home, across the sea.
What does it mean?
How to interpret signs left by this woman
who bore us, then
left us long before her body weakened?
How could she know, now or then,
that at sixty and beyond
we still feel helpless as little children?
With each stitch woven into doilies and dolls,
perhaps she was weaving bits and strands
of a heart so broken by life
it was all she could manage, to let us know
our lives mattered.
Years spent waiting on a better world
beyond this one merely
broke my own.