She was another lonely lady in a home for them.
At first it was no problem to be kind
and listen as I drew the blinds or moved a chair
to how her hair was once so long
With every extra blanket, came her memories of friends,
of whom she didn’t know how many were alive
except the one she married
(who, indeed, was dead),
and sometimes in the way I turned my head
she saw her son
(who never came to see her anymore).
My daily chores on her behalf
began to take a longer time than I had kindness for,
so soon I would excuse myself with some pretended task,
and then I passed in silence when I had to pass her door.
The nurses said she never cried
but only sat and waited.
I prepared the body when she died.
Let me put some peanut butter on her nose
So she’ll look cross-eyed down her whiskered snout
And stick her little pink tongue out to clean the lump away,
Or how about I place a strip of Scotch tape
on the bottom of each paw
so we can watch her shake them
like a bride wanting to look dignified and beautiful
who’s forced to do the hokey-pokey
with the groom?
I see too late that you are not amused
by my pretending meanness to your cat,
As though I were a prank-pulling jackass after all.
“Oh, Michael, stop.” you say, bending once to pet Sophie
before leaving the room
with her bouncing behind you on tippy toes.
All day you turn your face away
avoiding the stink of my bad joke.
You stay annoyed with me and with our marriage
like two sticky things I placed on the soles of your feet
some thirty-seven years ago.
© Michael Bornemann
Michael Bornemann is retired from a career serving disabled and underprivileged individuals. He remains active on several agency boards of directors in his community and influential committees in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His articles on disability issues, family relationships, death and dying, and social justice have appeared in the Op-Ed section of the Baltimore Sun. His poetry has been published in the Maryland Poetry Review and the Baltimore Sun.