To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54

Teresa Carson
That October might have begun
pretty much like this one. Last night, 
first chilly night, we shut all the windows,
the cat curled between John's legs, I slept 
with a blanket over my head. At six a.m., wrapped 
in a sweater, I checked the newly dug 
beds of bulbs—tulips, your favorite—
and wondered if they, and the ones I planted
on your grave, would survive the months
of frozen ground.

You were three days from bearing your tenth; 
rather than risk a fall, going up and down
two steep flights, you stayed inside.
At six a.m. you may've been in your rocking chair,
half-listening for fights over blankets 
or Pop's return from the graveyard shift
while you folded, again, a newly washed stack
of secondhand diapers and tees.
Maybe a draft made you shiver or a pain 
made you think it's beginning.

Too soon the cold will kill the last blooms
on asters, hydrangea, Autumn Joy sedum.
Too soon another breakdown 
left you in the depression that lasted 
the rest of your life. Too soon Judge Grossi ruled 
you were dangerous to your child's welfare. 
At fifteen I was free to leave.
But this morning, I went back to when
the cold hadn't yet settled in,
when you were waiting for me.

From Elegy for the Floater by Teresa Carson. Copyright © 2008 by Teresa Carson. Used by permission of Cavankerry Press. All rights reserved.

From Elegy for the Floater by Teresa Carson. Copyright © 2008 by Teresa Carson. Used by permission of Cavankerry Press. All rights reserved.

Teresa Carson