An Old Woman Lives in My
An old woman
lives in my mother’s house;
she sits alone and watches TV.
An old woman lives where my mother once did,
in the house
Daddy built in ‘53.
An old woman wears my mother’s
though they don’t fit; they hang on her back.
The old woman shuffles in Mother’s shoes
when we go for a
walk at the walking track.
An old woman cries in my
cries for the things she thinks someone took.
The old woman stops and scratches her head
And looks for
her keys, or her puzzle book.
The old woman says
no-one ever comes
to visit, though we go every day.
mother would not complain like that
but the old woman took
my mother away.
The old woman wants my mother’s checks;
screams that she has no money at all.
My sister patiently
pays the bills,
takes the old woman to shop at the mall.
They buy more yarn for my mother to knit,
afghans for little ones’ toes.
The old woman bundles the
skeins in bags
and hides it away where only she knows.
The old woman screams when I clean her house;
the door and change the bed.
Sometimes I cry when she
throws me out,
though I know it’s not Mother’s anger I
My brothers help out whenever they can.
old woman swears they never come.
We write in a book, keep
a daily log,
for Mother to read, should she ever come home.
Christmas at Pearl Harbor, 1991
The sun feels
warm on my face.
At eighty-eight, I need the warmth.
dry, age-spotted hands
finger the white flower I received
at the ceremony yesterday.
My son, entombed in the Arizona,
the same age I was when he was born.
The ache I felt that other December day.
though duller now,
is still there, even after fifty years.
The hibiscus on the hotel patio
bloom as red as the
I left in my old house in New Jersey,
one we heard the newﬂs from,
the one where we cried when we
of the knocking from the ship’s hull;
the agony of
before it was certain everyone was dead.
The anger is gone now,
just the misty memories remain:
him, riding his first bike on Chestnut Street,
smell at the train station that early morning he left,
duffel bag thrown heavily over his young shoulder.
I wish I could have had something of
to bury in the family plot where his father now lies.
But, this tomb will do. The outline of the ship
clear water is headstone enough.
I need new memories
now, so I’ll stay here
for Christmas, no need to return
to that old drafty house, alone.
I’ll sit on this patio,
with its flamingo awnings
and gaze at the blue water
where my son lies and look into eternity.
I’ll go shopping
with the other old wives and mothers
who have come for this bittersweet anniversary.
just try one of those tropical drinks
with the umbrellas.
Maybe I’ll buy a muumuu.
**Note: I wrote
this poem in response to the 50th anniversary of the bombing
of Pearl Harbor, using the voice of an imagined mother who
lost her young son in that tragedy.