Mean-Spirited Poem of Thanks to My Mother

Sharon Olds

I don’t believe I ever thanked you
for dying when you did. How quietly
you left, making your entrance into
the vestibule of dying -- pressing your left
temple with your left palm,
your right with your right, crying out one
last, Callas note, I hope
not flat -- and taking your mental leave,
though I heard you say Amen, the next day,
the minister said a prayer over your coma
and you crisply said Amen, though you could not have,
I opened my eyes and your mouth had stopped moving
My sister heard it too -- your tone of
being the person whose Amen would count with God --
and then we got to vigil two days
beside you, it was so touching to see you
not in control of your fate. Humble
tourist on the little kortal
conveyor, product due on its date,
you left when your molecules and atoms would have it,
and I can imagine you ending up
sittething on the right hand
of your God -- not in a little cage,
no seed-bell, no cuttlebone, no mirror, no bell --
there is no harm to protect you from,
and no one, now, to protect from your harm,
you perch on his pinky and sing to him
for eternity, and he has no cat,
and he loves your voice, wild with longing, and
almost never even a little flat.

 This is one of three poems by Sharon Olds. Click to read "Departure Gate" or "Pacific Coast Ode."