“Looking West,” Ensign, July 1977, 59
Grandfather is home from Seattle.
He smiles as we turn him and we smile back,
trying not to remember that his wasted arms
once tossed us high or tickled us to tears;
memories must be thrust from this room,
for even the light ones are melting and dark.
His last years, looking westward to the sea,
he learned the faces of sunset through his window;
now there is no glass holding him back,
only the weight of his own life
that drags him to his bed,
that holds him home.
He speaks to his children and loves them patiently;
with his help we conceal our gathering grief,
praying against hope that we can hold him,
even while his feeble legs long to take another step.
Old Mother stands at the window.
Old Mother bathes in blue light,
rests her hands in the white water
as the last dusk drifts in the kitchen window;
the dishes are done.
She smiles at the window sill,
and the sill reflects all the evening.
It shines from her shining it.
The window is clear because she cleaned it.
Her face is loving because she etched it
with tears, creased it with laughter,
furrowed it with worry, then let it rest.
Old Mother faces west
because the window faces west.
She smiles to remember
the stone at Father’s head.
On the right it tells Father’s name,
his date of birth, the day he died;
on the left old Mother’s name,
her date of birth, and a space.
Soon, she thinks. Not today,
because the petunias need thinning
and the carpet needs sweeping,
but it will be soon.
She takes the plug from the sink
and as the water drains
she dries her hands.