The freeloaders enjoyed the hell out of my birthday.
For me, the commotion was too much.
That night I could not climb to our bed.
I lay on the sofa downstairs,
too tired for sleep.
Kidney failure, the doctors say.
Janine calls our wayward prodigals.
So they are here, waiting.
Mary flew in from that godforsaken place
where she ran to shape a new life
away from us.
Ornithologist Adam took the call on an island off the Cape,
abandoning migration counts
to follow another migration
of this tough old bird.
My children have a sitting schedule
so I won’t be alone.
My eyes are closed, but I sense them,
as the morphine drip whispers into me.
Father Quinn intones
Yea, though I walk through the valley—
I growl, Not today.
Mary stirs, behind my head
At my feet, I see Adam’s red-rimmed eyes
magnified behind owlish glasses.
He has his mother’s look,
always too familiar,
knowing more about me
than I ever cared to show,
even to myself.
My grandfather planted the elm
outside this window.
For over ninety years,
I have watched that same branch
bud into spring .
Today it waves goodbye.
I cannot wave back.
Christine Jackson grew up in New England but now teaches literature and creative writing at a South Florida university. That is, she is supposed to teach, but she probably learns more from her students than they do from her. She also plays jazz piano and acoustic guitar. Her poetry has been published dozens of online publications, including Madness Muse Magazine, Peacock Journal, Verse-Virtual, Ekphrastic Review, and Treehouse: An Exhibition of the Arts. http://cahss.nova.edu/faculty/christine_jackson.html