Her cheekbones, Cherokee, she’d told me
when we were younger, have
reasserted themselves.  Last visit
her face was swollen, foreshortened by
pink scarf, but hair has grown
what with the end of the chemo
into small feathery clumps,
and her features, that web of
intent-filled bone, have resurfaced.
You look so beautiful, I say.  Smile
flickers until she turns again to
trying to sit up, though we have
to catch and lift and
her husband
to support her,
which she cannot
bear for long. But
I have to get up, she says,
I have to get out of this place.

He talks of brushing her hair first,
fingering brief curls.  This
brings a nod.  She has been naturally
beautiful her whole life,
but also a beauty who brushed hair first.
But I’ve got to get home, she insists
suddenly, arching away.
You are home, he tells her, in
your own room, your own bed,
but she pushes now so hard
that we have to turn
her legs, gather her arms, lift and walk
her to a chair, its chintz print
roses on vines, then, when she can’t sit,
walk her back.

Did you call the car? Tell him
to come right now?  You’ve got
to call it.
I called it, her husband lies
as he holds her head close to slide down drops.
But I’ve got to go home, she cries, pulling away
from body, pain, still air.
Just stay for a bit, he whispers.



I originally posted this for National Poetry Day 2009 in the U.K. on a theme of heroes and heroines, but I am relinking to the Trifecta Writing Challenge on the topic of home.  Trifecta has very cool challenges that look to the third meaning of the word – here, “a familial or usual setting: congenial environment, also focus of one’s domestic attention.” 

This poem was published in my book GOING ON SOMEWHERE, (by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by Diana Barco). Also check out l1 Mississippi -counting book for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms, or Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.



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8 Comments on ““Home””

  1. This is so touching, Karin. Because of the work I’ve done with death and dying, I seen similar scenarios repeated often. The way you included details made this unique to this sweet lady. Beautiful write and amazing to be a part of this type of experience, isn’t it?

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, amazing, yes, so sad, of course. Thinking about it with your prompt tonight, keeping in mind all the incredible luck one has to be here now.

  2. zongrik Says:

    what a lovely tender relationship. it’s good not to be all alone.

  3. Ouch, this is so evocative. The details of the pain of still air, of insistence, of the ending of treatment are extremely powerful.

  4. Annabelle Says:

    So sad. I’ve never had to be that close to that situation myself but you conveyed all the little pieces of tragedy so well.

  5. Paula J Says:

    The last line-so tender, so sad.

  6. Thanks so much for linking up with Trifecta this week. This is such a heartfelt, heart-wrenching piece. You’ve done a great job describing loss in a relatable way. Hope to see you back again soon.

  7. “But I’ve got to go home, she cries, pulling away
    from body, pain, still air.
    Just stay for a bit, he whispers.”

    Oh, Karin. This is heartbreaking … and beautiful. So much truth here.

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