When My Mother Lost Her Memory
Another one, bigger but useless,
rolled in like a thunderstorm
low on a cornfield.
She asks me, “Now which one are you?”
—though she’s certain of her own aproned
grandmother who stayed for the Nebraska winter,
straight-backed and sullen in a chair
by the kitchen window. “Her name was Frieda,” Mom says,
“but she called herself Frances because Germans were dirt.”
The big, useless memory drifts damply down crack creeks
alongside Route 20 leaving Sioux City.
My brother Jim P, who died this past May, won’t stay dead
in my mother’s head and her divorce is only a rumor
but the starchy-smelling, state legislating uncle
definitely sat next to her at the First Communion breakfast in ’36,
with whispered jokes and three cigars and a rosary of wood beads
carved like bumble bees in his pocket.
Old habits and hobbies and distinct dislikes peel off
in the wash of the big, useless memory, floating away
like beetle wings atop stray, shallow rills, soon to slow
and puddle and dry. My mother’s paints harden in their tubes.
Her true crime paperbacks yellow, linty and lost
under her bed, but suddenly cream is welcomed
in coffee, dessert is permissible and on Sunday afternoon
when the young Hispanic man in the cowboy hat
comes to play piano in the lounge
his Spanish is the language of angels,