by Ann McNeal
BIRTHING HER DEATH
First fear, then the diagnosis.
I try to find her
amid all the busyness.
In nine months death grows close
until it’s here in the room,
a light white room with three people dying.
Beyond the curtain, a woman wipes
silently with a blue rag mop,
the space that held last night
a family’s muted cries,
another dying woman.
I come closer to her than I ever have,
see the distance more clearly.
Distance not to be crossed,
secrets not to be discussed.
Love keeps me quiet.
It would not help to speak now.
She goes easily, an unexpected gift.
I believe I helped her give birth
to peace, her fourth child.
But what do I do
with my anger at her complicity,
with my sorrow for her narrow life,
the ways she held back from living?
I cannot say that peace is simple--
mine I mean, I don¹t know about hers.
My peace comes driving to work,
with dirty dishes left in the sink
and doubts still cobwebbing the corners.
First published in
Patchwork Journal, Issue 4, 2004.