Old Times

for my wife’s mother

For a long time she pretended
she could remember. There were little tricks
involved, schemes and inventions, or so we thought
looking back. There were ways to speak
that gave away almost nothing. She’d sit in place
like a doll, you said, like a china doll,
the beautiful clear skin of her face
set in no particular expression, as if that, too,
was something she had practised,
stored up against the time she would have
only this part to play, and she wouldn’t know it.
Other times, older times,
she could talk about. She could talk about you
as if you weren’t beside her, but back
where there was still some shape to speak of.
When she wandered away, what was she looking for?
When she got out of bed at night, took the pictures
off the walls, and packed her things,
where was she going? Once she turned to you
while you were shopping, turned to you
as to any passerby on the street, and asked.
would you mind very much if I came home with you?
Yes, mother, we’ll go home now.
Then she knew who had taken her hand.
It must have felt like her wish had been granted.