What My Mother Does Not Say When Her Son Says
He Will Weep When She Goes

James Hoch

Well, I won’t need your tears then,

laid out in a bleach-thin gown,

hospital bed, hospital light —

one bulb burnt, one flickering.

But I will take them anyway,

as always. Even after tumors

mound in my bowels, look it is you

who suffers, you and your heart

which only hear its own pulse.

You see a crow on the wire;

you caw. A fox blinks in the middle

of the road; your soul stirs.

Living this way must be a curse.

Ancient, meaning original.

But I won’t point that out,

just yet. No, go ahead, walk out

of the room, down the corridor,

when the gray is too much.

Is it already too much?

It will be over soon and your face

in your hands will be your face

in your hands. I have been tending

the limits of your affections

a long time. And I will be there too,

in the pew, beneath the oak, as you clean

salt and dirt from your son’s cheek

with a spit-wet thumb.

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