By Janna Vought
She scrubbed bathroom tiles, swept and
vacuumed floors, polished furniture with
lemon oil—never satisfied. She taught me
to be nice, polite, never speak out of turn,
wear a smile that was never your own, her
only daughter, fellow sinner.
I swore to never be like her, fight
the progression, yet I became my
mother’s daughter, house-wife,
married to a house,
a slave to her home.
Time passed, days wound down.
Into her bedroom I go. My mother,
wrinkled body, jelly brain, vein lace covers
yellowed skin stretched thin as brittle parchment
paper, breath choked with gravel, heavy from years
of smoking. Old woman trapped inside her ghost
flesh—dying. I can do nothing for her but pray.
I ease her into the shower, flaccid breasts
slump against her ribs, soap her back
freckled from years of water skiing and sun
bathing. She sighs. Just the two of us,
alone inside this familiar silence, never
much to say.
I dress her in her favorite nightgown
budding with pink roses, brush what
remains of her silver threads of hair. She
smiles, “They’re coming to take me
We sit in vinyl chairs
in the kitchen, sip from steaming mugs of
chamomile tea, her mind absent from her body,
Mother Memory missing: daysweeksmonthsyears
Chernobyl’s medication cooked her skin, brain,
I spoke to the funeral home today. The director
asked what color were her eyes. I can’t
remember. Her favorite pantsuit matches the
lipstick I picked out for her at the drugstore
yesterday—Perfectly Pink. She’ll look beautiful.
How should I have them style her hair? What
should I send to the newspaper?
She took the train at midnight, left
She packed pieces of her life,
folded them neatly into her soul.
White wings reached down,
and clasped her hand to help
her climb aboard. A kiss
goodbye, a wave. Time
ceased. Sweet release.
Mother died last night in her bed, arms
outstretched beside her, dreams unrealized
Janna Vought is a poet, nonfiction, and fiction writer with more than 50 pieces published in various magazines and literary journals. She graduated from American Public University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and from Lindenwood University with an MFA in creative writing. She is an Association of Writing Professionals Intro Journals Project in Poetry nominee for 2013. Janna is married and the mother of two daughters, the eldest who suffers from chronic mental and developmental illnesses.