Tell him a nice memory you have
my mother prompts while we sit
either side of the bed where my dad lays.
I skuddle backwards for scraps that feature
only he and I, but what leaps to mind
are his eyes dimming with disappointment,
his lips tight in justification, and the air
just snapped to send sparks sky-high.
I try again and find a favorite memory to
mention: lunches at a snack bar in Santa Fe
after he was done at the brokerage.
I offer this but he says he does not recall
those at all.
Yesterday when we arrived, he threw his lunch
off the tray and raged at my mother for not
getting there sooner.
The staff injected him in the thigh with a drug
intended to defuse another that lit his fuse.
Never threw stuff before my mother insisted
forgetting that once he threw his dinner
at me. I was 17 and dating a man he hated.
The look on his face when he did that
matches what we see now.
If Prednisone shows what rears beneath,
is this the true him without the filter?
My mother laughs as if that will coax him
back to normalcy.
I yank her away as he reaches to twist her
off her feet.
This isn’t him! she claims
because that’s what she has to believe.
Shoshauna Shy is the author of five collections of poetry, and the founder of the Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf program, and the Woodrow Hall Top Shelf awards.