Sassafras, Hazel, Arbutus

On watching mother die at the nursing home.  

Just once, an instant once in one whole life
when winter lances membranes in the hazel leaves
releasing waters from the bloods of red, just once
the colors on the hills forget each other, blink,
and shift to window chairs to stare the wind.

Now this. Goodbye, you purple of her autumn bruise.
Now blood and serum lose their long embrace
and testify to different times, both times
just slightly past the blank on mother’s watch
and past the grope of thought at liquid thought.

The colors on the hills enjoyed each other’s
names. Now this is births and proms and vows
all draped across the year’s thin arms. Just now.
Just snap the photo now or you will not.
An hour more, the quiet starts to clot.

This hour all her words are nearly words, but not.
This hour all her words are nearly other words.
This hour poems always long for something else
to happen. Happen now is grace alone.
Son, behold your mother; mother, son?

The light is also grace alone, not works
and scripture solely speaks what happens now
and faith alone, not sight, instills pieta —
sassafras pieta, scriptured hills,
no names of saints, just trees, don’t gospel this.

Not this. Yes, red, yet washed of red. Yes, blood
yet clean of breath. Yes, washed, yet out of doors
where sassafras and hazel and arbutus
lined and line the road to Rockhouse Cave
where children still dig arrowheads to save.

Just once in one whole life the pulse is cropped
and then its chemical nostalgia calls
the colors, colors call themselves new names
of molecules, the heme takes mortal blues.
Goodbye, demonic purples. Damn altzheimer bruise.

Don’t dare you gospel this and rouge what’s not
but white between the final letter and the dot.

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