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
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
Each returned to
its neatly slit envelope.
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
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.
pink percale, or icy blue.
invested with meaning by memory:
her Girl Scout pin
a stapler, 1940s green
I wear her rings,
amazed that they are
just my taste.
Chicago Quarterly Review
Vol. 18, 2014