Our Mother's Last Solstice by Ann Thornfield-Long

She read the clouds like runes,
unleashed her terrible temper,
then forgave us
and decorated the hillsides
with philodendron and laurel. 

Now Mamma is bad off.
She never took to her bed before.
She can't get up.
She wakes with night sweats.
She bleeds.
The girls wash her sheets,
careful where they dump the washwater.

Mamma begs for water
but won't drink what we bring her.
She wants the sweet water
from the spring on Lovely Bluff. 
It dried up year before last.
She'd cry if she could remember.

Mamma's throat is raw.
Her voice was bright
as the red bird's, now it scratches
like twigs on the tin roof,
like a haint. 

She whispers.
I put my ear to her lips.
It's Troublesome Creek
she's praying to.

She says she smells hell fire.
We did at first. Not now.
We lift her out to the porch.
She stays till dark to see 
Seven Sisters but the air is too thick
for stars.

Maybe her heart's gone bad
or she's all eat up. The doctors
say sometimes people 
just give up the ghost.
Mamma would never give up. 

When it poured rain for three days 
she was in and out of her mind. 
She dreamed the bridge washed away.
It wasn't a dream. 

She asks for dirt 
from the garden, rubs 
it between her fingers
tastes it, then dry heaves.

Beside the bed is her picture
with all us kids.
She used to be pink as sunrise.
We try not to see flesh hanging loose 
from her arms.

She calls to her horses, 
Sirocco, Aeolian, 
Gale, Zephyr, Squall, Wuther, 
Haboob and Foehn. She wants them 
to carry her away from what we ruint. 
She always found a way
to fix it before. 

What will we do if our Mother
leaves us? How will the Bloodroot
know when to bloom?

Ann Thornfield-Long has lived in East Tennessee for over 40 years. She has published poetry in Riddled with Arrows, Artemis Journal and other places, and fiction in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. 

return to sampler            return to poetry             home