“The Death of Old Women” by Elizabeth Smither

Elizabeth Smither

—for Diana Bridge

Our mothers: we’ve described
symptoms you rarely share
outside the family home
and not often there: a scalp

affliction, the body’s efforts
without conscious consent, it seems
to breathe. What kills us:
lack of air. And how death comes

like someone climbing weary stairs
for the last time, forbearing
to ever look back again
on the view below. I mentioned

a blue colouring like the shading of a lamp.
You described a fearful rattling sound.
Not all of these were shared. Death
is individually tailored, like all things.

A dusty angel, with heavy wings
and a pocket of tools, like a lock-breaker
but gentleness as well, a concern
to take each prize into his hands.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004
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