Months To Years Spring 2018 Months To Years Spring 2018 - Page 8

When my mother was dying and couldn’t get out of came back, she wasn’t going to be there, I wouldn’t hear bed, she had a little pile of things she wanted to keep at her voice, I would not hug her, or see her. She would not hand. Every day, while she was still able to use them, she be there to see me. reached for these things over and over—the TV remote, the ever-present lipstick of her generation, a nail file, a pen Months after I wrote this, when I came to my mother’s and note pad on which she tried to keep track of visitors apartment for the last time, to sign the papers for its sale, or thoughts. I remembered a fabric hanging contraption to be in that space that I’d known for 30 years, and to I made for my kids to keep their socks and small toys in gaze out at the beautiful Hudson River one more time, I when they were little, like a shoe bag in miniature, and carried the last of whatever else I was keeping out to my I affixed it to the hospice bed railing, where its pockets car. All that remained now besides the walls and floors, were visible and accessible to her, and we arranged her the doorframes, windows, and fixtures, was a sponge things in it. These were the last things she touched. When for cleaning, the take-out food I’d brought for my last the bed was taken away, I rolled up the pocket bag meal there, and a towel. I slept one more night on the with everything still in it, and put it aside. As I managed living room carpet, in my sleeping bag. And at dawn, everything else, day after day, I tried not to look at it. that last day I’d ever be in my mother’s home, I woke up Finally, this week, I unfolded it. I pulled out her little mirror. with a start, without any conscious thought, but with this Her eye glasses. Her last tissue. question echoing: What about the bridges for the koto? I   knew, intimately, every single thing that she’d had in that Another one of the several hardest things I ever did place, and I knew I hadn’t seen the bridges. Where were happened two days after she died. My mother never they? With nothing to climb on, I knocked on a neighbor’s locked her door. I always had a key, but never had to door and borrowed a step ladder, so I could see into use it. Well, that day I had to leave to go back to New the farthest back corners of high shelves in cabinets and Hampshire for a while. I closed the door and in the closets, although I thought I’d already done that a dozen hallway, I turned back to put the key in the lock, to lock times thoroughly. And there in the hall closet, far, far back, up her home, the place she’d lived for 30 years, that had was the little box. I hadn’t seen it since I was a teenager, no one in it now. Although it was still full of most of her but I recognized it immediately. It was covered in worn things, I was locking up its emptiness. I knew I’d come printed paper, and tied with a ribbon. I took the box, back soon, to do this work, and that then I’d have to get and thanked my mother again for paying attention, for out the key and unlock this door to the place where my knowing what I needed. Inside it were the 14 bridges—13 mother wouldn’t be, where only what was left of her things for stringing and tuning the instrument, plus one extra one, would be, all having to be taken away, like her. When I in case of loss.    Alice B. Fogel is the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire. In addition to Strange Terrain, a guide to appreciating poetry without necessarily “getting” it, she is the author of five poetry collections, including Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature and the New Hampshire Literary Award in Poetry; Be That Empty, a national bestseller; and, most, recently A Doubtful House. A nine-time Pushcart nominee and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship and other awards, her poems appear in many journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry and Poet’s Choice. When she’s not playing by herself, or with family and friends, she’s either working one-on-one with learning disabled students at Landmark College in Putney, VT, or she’s hiking, because Alice likes walking long distances, sometimes hundreds of miles at a time, especially on the Appalachian Trail. 8