That night the whole city got quieter
as her puppy breathing quit forever
and her great hungry generous six-foot soul
relaxed into the starlight and sea noise
leaving faint images on walls and skin
leaving its last fingerprints on our tired backs.
When you watch your mother die
all you can do is die with her
and then there is no stopping, you are forever
dying toward someone you will never touch again
and there is no more waiting between thoughts
because the first and only life has ended in you.
When my mother died you rocked me in the bosom
of your voice rocked me in the voice of your good heart
and in the heart of our old love I slept,
alone and cared for, surrounded by her house
and the endless lament of the frogs out back
and a new sound, which is this world without her.
You send maple leaves from Massachusetts
to cheer me up saying the days since her dying
are like leaves fallen on her face,
and I bury you in a pile of words to push back the terror
of what’s to come, to trap you at the very edge
of my life, remembering that
you stood outside my mother’s cancer room
and shook with losing her
knowing the hearthstone of our family
has shattered, there is no one left to hold us
and the bed she died in
has closed its womb and heart.
I see you naked in the wet rot of fall leaves
see you nursing the snails and bugs with your dead blood
and I want to die with you
not now, but in the slow way that old lovers
learn the walk of humility and the breath of gratitude
together, as the mirrors sag into God’s last word.