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    Thirty thousand feet above the Badlands
    my mother looks out her window and says
    ‘There’s a car beside us.’ She understands
    for a moment that we are flying, prays

    aloud for the pilot to find his way
    through all this dark. Then she asks why
    the chairs in our hotel are so small today.
    She says there is something in my eye

    and brushes her finger across the lid
    of her own. Seeing the papery skin
    loose on the back of her hand, its grid
    of wrinkles, she blinks and asks again

    how old she is. When I say she is ninety,
    she looks away, sees the engine, turns
    back and grabs my arm. She asks if I see
    the car, then whispers that she yearns
    to go upstairs to her room and invites
    me to join her. There is nothing I can do
    to help her through the long nights
    ahead, nights strange as this afternoon

    when we cross the country together.
    Though she can no longer live alone,
    I realize that no matter where my mother
    lives now, she will always be alone

    in a world forever gone wild in her mind.
    Still thinking I am her last late boyfriend,
    she leans closer, says ‘you’re always so kind
    to me’ and sighs as she pats my hand.

    Reprinted with permission from the book Approximately
    Paradise (Tupelo, 2005).

    Published on Jan 1, 2006


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