Two by Mary Shanley
my toothless mama.
We just celebrated your
on Saturday, now Tuesday
18 hours after the stroke
you finally recognize me.
Sticking your wrinkled piano
Fingers in the pureed sweet potatoes.
You have kind hands.
They have always comforted
and slipped an extra five
into the palm of whoever
Don’t put your fingers in the food mama
Cause that ain’t what you do.
Come on! Snap out of it!
and the split second
before the veins in your brain exploded
and gibberish became your new language.
I feed you
and speak to you
like a little child
I baby you
And you like this.
I say pucker up
and you do.
This is how
we play together
She was never the same
Oprah found her half-sister, Patricia,
But my sister, Patricia, is still lost to me
Schizophrenic and ironic
Living in Park Nursing Home.
When she used to work on MacDougal
Street at the original Café Figaro
She wrote poems about city lights
Piercing her eyes when she
crossed the hip and still beat
Artistic aspirations led her
To F.I.T., where she designed
Textiles and rejoiced in color.
That was before her cruel brain disease
spun her further out than anyone ever
Thought she would go.
The medication dulled her vibrant spirit
And her personality was only vaguely
Recognizable. When I tried to establish
authentic contact, she flew away,
a trail of jibberish in her wake.
Now she is sixty
And living with her unborn children
Who appear and disappear
Like constellations playing pranks
On her fractured astrological chart
Today, she likes me
And asks about my husband
And children, who only exist
In her story of life, a life that
Spins and weaves perfect pictures
To complement the aged and infirm
Who surround her like angels
In a Blakean vision.