IN MEMORIAM

1. CHOICES

In her closet, descending wardrobes:

14 Petite, Medium, Small

She has reached her goal weight

on the Ovarian Cancer Diet Plan

Proud to be lighter, at last, than the daughter

who was slim in youth and toned in middle age.

 

In her kitchen:

A dozen menus from local restaurants

sit-down, take-out

diner, delivery

A dozen diet books — eating for

your blood type, your mood

your allergies, your disease

A dozen bottles of dubious nutroceuticals

gamma tocopherol, grape seed extract

Norwegian fish oil, trimethylglycine

A dozen donuts, half a Danish

coffee cake, a bag of Snickers.

 

Her last robe:

puffed and airy around bird-boned shoulders

pulled tight around a belly

packed with tumor.

 

What did you choose for me? she demands

surfacing through Ativan and morphine.

Not this, the daughter thinks.

Not cancer. Not this.

A sigh and a quote from Doctor Phil,

her voice resigned and proud.

I chose for myself, she says.

I made all the choices.

 

At the end, pale on her pillow,

she looks like the long-dead pharaoh:

a fleshless, elegant skull

a lipless, gaping mouth

Finished now with her battleground body,

she will weigh less than her urn.

 

2. NOT ON THE PROBATE INVENTORY

 

A hoard of emery boards

and hotel shower caps.

Little packs of Kleenex

in every single purse.

Unopened jams and jellies,

brochures from trips long past.

 

Warranties, appliances gone

Pay stubs, three decades old

Receipts, deposit slips

Medicare notices

Insurance papers

Annuity statements

Each returned to

its neatly slit envelope.

All filed.

None significant.

 

The executrix opens every one.

Night after night,

she recycles the envelopes

shreds anything with numbers

listens to a ballgame

as she works.

 

The Indians take two out of three

from Boston.

The bats are alive at last.

They’re in contention

but they’ll never catch Chicago this year.

 

3. COMMON GROUND

 

Oil of Olay:

soap, lotion, makeup.

Zippered housecoats:

pink percale, or icy blue.

Small things

invested with meaning by memory:

her Girl Scout pin

a stapler, 1940s green

measuring cups

I wear her rings,

amazed that they are

just my taste.

 

 

 

Chicago Quarterly Review

Vol. 18, 2014