Toward the end, she could only
lift a cup of coffee. Closer still,
even that became too much for her,
my mother. A sponge, then,
I’d dip in coffee, or dip sweet bread,
and put that to her lips to suck. That
was all the cancer let her manage.
The IV was her sugar water, and she
the hummingbirds she loved to watch,
busy at the red and yellow feeder.
Those plastic flowers welded on
were poor excuses, but they worked. Whatever
worked, I guess my mother thought,
lived. On the bed in the living room,
her body of sleeping birds, her dream
of a thousand green wings shimmering like
shreds of aluminum that could, at any moment,
unloose on the wind. Toward
the end, the sponge and the coffee, the cancer.
She couldn’t smoke anymore either, of course,
because even drawing her own drag: impossible.
So she had me smoke for her—nine years old—
I was her lungs. I blew the smoke right in her face, right
in her face. Just like that, over and over: