Judith Kelly Quaempts
She said, I won’t say goodbye
You’ve’ always known how I felt
She looked so small, so frail,
So fearful her control would shatter
Like the bones in her hip.
Swallowing my anguish
I covered both her hands with mine
and stared at the wall beside her bed.
We didn’t say I love you at the end
some stupid rule we had that breaking
down meant giving in.
I should have cried, and held her tight, said,
I love you, over and over again.
I stroked her hands to keep
from crushing them with all we left unsaid
My grandmother came from a generation
of women who drank hot tea if they fell ill,
who scrubbed floors on their knees when
A photograph-she and her
Husband on their porch.
She leans against his side.
Her face glows.
She nursed both parents through
Her husband died. She sold
Their home, lived in furnished
Apartments, sold magazines
door to door, clerked in
Little by little, she came into
I see her in dreams. She wears a favorite suit.
Bone-colored shoes with sensible heels match a handbag
Draped over one arm. She smiles as though
death is one more adventure, like the charted bus
she took to the Ice Capades one year
or her first trip to Hawaii when she stared
at the ocean below with a rosary clasped in her hands.
In old age she said her prayers
like a child, eyes closed, lips
shaping each word, as though
God’s hearing was as bad as her own.
Judith Kelly Quaempts lives and write in a small, eastern Oregon city. Her work has been published in Persimmon Tree's west coast states poetry contest, Buddhist Poetry Review, and anthologies in the Poeming Pigeon.