The death angel was never at our door,
blocking the light with huge, ragged wings
rust stained from smoke and blood.

The Divine had already filled the room with Presence
Soft and scintillating as a violet veil
Falling then lifting in a moment of twilight.

And in that instant when the gates opened
That divide the light from night
You were kissed, a sleeping beauty
and you slipped away hand in hand

leaving us to wonder if you were breathing still

or holding your breath in awestruck silence.

New moon rising, waking from its watery sleep
amid the reeds and lilies.

With the new moon you rise as well
from the hospital bed with its hydraulic cushions

You found you could see the world without cataracts
and move without the grate of osteoporosis
compressing your spine.

You became the air fragrant with myrrh and frankincense

You could suddenly remember the pictures on the wall.

New moon rising, opening a threshold
with its slender sliver of light
And beyond the door of its opening
the vista of the moon beckons
silverine bright.

My mother believed that lady bugs were harbingers of death

My grandmother was wearing a ladybug pin
when a stroke struck her down
like a thief stabbing in the night.

And now Mom herself has gone,
has slipped away hand in hand with the twilight

The very day your too kind card arrived,
brimming with get well wishes
and garnished with ladybugs on broad petalled flowers.

“the little beasts of God” some call them.

I always thought ladybugs were bad luck charms
but now, seeing you slide so gracefully away
into the peace of goodnight,
I think instead they grace the living
and ease our arthritic legs
as we stair step up
from one plane to another.

Your skeletal husk, so winterwithered now
is refleshed with recollection.

You are again your photograph,
the person who chose with care
pearl beads to mask the thyroid scar across your throat.

You are the mother who carefully cherished instructions:
“Care for a patient after tonsillectomy.”

You guarded it these forty years
in case our tonsils might grow back
and if they did,

you would care for us again,

You awaited your special day with breathless anticipation
as you laid out your Gone-With-The-Wind
ruffle tiered wedding dress
and set white shoes beside your bed.

This was also the day your son was born
and you agonized over his name more than over your labor pains.

This same day respiralling through time
found you waiting again
with the anticipation of a small child
toying at the colored ribbons on a birthday present.

You waited as the day came soft on cat’s paws
with the slow ease of twilight
that presages, not the impending darkness,
but an opalescent dawn.

Aunt Vallie stopped by your bedside
between the nurses and the blood pressure cusps
and sponges soaked in honey water.

No one saw her slip between the shadows
and the narrow bands of light
cast by the table lamp,

though perhaps they felt her as cool breath
stirring in a closed room
with unopened windows.

She vanished as vapor when the lights blinked overhead
flooding your sight with too much reality.

Memory is a fleeting incarnation
And most days our eyes are all too open,insensitive to the touch of shadow
or the scent of lilacs
wafting over us from a faraway spring.

You were embarrassed to wear the “Aged to Perfection” sweatshirt.

You said you weren’t perfect.

After all —

You were afraid of water

ever since the flood of ’21
took away your dolls
and the home you remembered.

You recollected sleeping then
At the foot of a bed crowded with people
All seeking high ground
All with a single change of clothing.
you distrusted escalators as well,
and you were far too fond of sugar.

You weren’t perfect, you said,

but the litmus test for perfection
is the humility to know
your own imperfection.

Published in Poems