Caroline Maun


My mother’s hands are tied—
literally, she is cuffed and secured
so that in a moment of half-sleep
or wide awake rebellion
she won’t strip the intubation
along with part of her throat
in a red spray of no
across the white sheets of can’t get up again, maybe ever.

I lean down regardless of the wild bacteria
I can almost see herding across her.
I want to know what she wants to say
but can’t. She grabs my arm
with the little bit of play she has
and then uses it to scratch an itch
on her face. My arm, my hand—
an extension of her hand, her arm—
is dead-curled and dumb at first.


I attended the privileged vigil, singing
softly the songs she sang to lull me
to sleep. Those had been long sessions,
continuing for years, since I was born afraid
of the edges of the bed. She would stay,
singing, and once she was sure,
she would return to Dad, the news.

She can hear me, I believe, beyond
morphine’s mercy. I sing all I remember.
I put “Je Ne Regrette Rien” on the player,
sing with that. I watch her breathing,
bet on a tomorrow, ask forgiveness,
go and somehow sleep.

I wake supernaturally rested,
in peace, a minute ahead of the call.
As she left, she shook me softly,
leaving all the comfort she had.


I brought her home in a sealed black box.
Would there be a crook of jawbone
coated in ash, or the head
of a femur, stubborn fist of bone.
I chose a lidded vase from the antique store:
well-figured, cloisonné, lavender and blue.  
The need to pour her from the temporary container—
whatever the complications—
became urgent on Easter Monday.  

In the end, the powder was fine and uniform.  
Raising only a shadow of dust,
she slipped into the pretty vase.

Caroline Maun is an associate professor in the English Department at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. She is the editor of the Collected Poems of Evelyn Scott and the author of Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle. She has published a volume of poems, The Sleeping, with Marick Press and two poetry chapbooks with Pudding House.  Her poems and criticism have appeared in Raving Dove, EOAGH, Adirondack Review and elsewhere. She currently coordinates creative writing at Wayne State.