At Shining Rock

More certain she was dying now,
she tried new ways to speak:
comical yet grim, like the wig
she’d thumbed down, preferring
earth-toned scarves and irony
the color of her IV bruise.
Too late, I’ve learned I’m the life
of my own party
—this said,
walking the dog, to the dog.

On days when she felt curious,
she pictured the rogue cells
aswarm in her lower bowel
as colonies of mold on bread.
Other days she had us labeling
her belongings with our names—
paperbacks first, then hardcovers,
the contents of her brass jewelry box,
mutually grooming horses on its lid.


Sometimes such preparedness
struck us as a kind of mania:
I’m terrified, she said, but never felt
such joy
, taking her pocket Psalms
to the back porch to perform 121—
her congregation, twenty seedlings
in twenty milk cartons of soil.
In a late-May rainfall, she led us
up the muddy slope to Shining Rock.

White oak, as we rose, gave into
mountain ash, scrub, veined granite.
Scatter me anywhere around here,
she said, offering her psalm again:
I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence …
To feel the wind and rain abating
as she read, deciduous and pine
creating miles of uniform green,
you must stand still, still as she stood.