Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Gripping the edge of the scuffed Formica, mother bawls like a stump preacher, jumped up and jittery, Jesus! Jesus! Save me Jesus! Come and take me, now!
We ease her back from the counter, from the house where she’d spent six decades and drive her away in a white Tahoe we borrowed for the trip.
Card playing when she can, music when she can’t, edema too often, her family orchestrates the 60-cycle hum of do and do again.
Mother complains in a little mouse voice not exactly her own, it’s awful.
I can’t contradict. Awful.
It’s both what I might say and a surprise, since she speaks so little now after a lifetime of outbursts.
I listen politely, count her breaths, moisten her mouth with a lollipop sponge.
She stopped eating days ago, stopped drinking yesterday.
For days, I have tipped my plastic chair across her doorway, my bare ankles crossed, rug mashed under my heels, half-in and half out, guarding our shared memory of beach and traveler’s palm.
Those days I’m sixteen again, waiting to be caught necking in the guesthouse.
She gasps; her chest agonizes into a lift.
Her breath-opened mouth closes on her final Thanksgiving, her last glass of wine and I must concede death is not a card she can play or withhold.
When an elevator falls, it really falls fast.
I begin the obituary.
Only then can I admit the twist, the release, the palpable kick of orphaning.
About the writer:
Wendy Taylor Carlisle writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of three books and five chapbooks. Her book The Mercy of Traffic is due in March 2019. She has 11 times been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and twice for best of web.
Image: “Awakening” by Terri Edwards. Acrylic and pastel on canvas. 10 x 10 inches. No completion date specified. By permission. Terri Edwards is an internationally collected artist, having achieved success initially with her mixed media collages. Edwards has recently concentrated her focus on abstract art and has dedicated the last three years to studying various techniques and to developing her own intuitive style. Edward’s core belief is that art has the power to transform, uplift, and enlighten, and she believes everyone should have the opportunity to purchase affordable, high quality art.