Destination Unknown, Earaches with my Mother
– Poetry by Zoe FitzGerald-Beckett –
Each day he packs. Takes pictures off the walls,
adds the dish that held his morning toast. The crumbs too.
One slipper goes into his bag. One stays under the bed.
He puts on a shirt, and another on top of it. And another.
Not interested in toothbrush, shaving cream, socks.
In his boxers and shirts, he packs. Destination unknown.
He once ruled a kingly intellect, his brain a mastermind
of the legal, the linear, the logical. Now it works a new
dimension, a marvel unto itself. Coordinates unknown.
Each night she dreams. Vows renewed, church bells
sounding. She sees the wedding dress, hears the music.
There is dancing and a cake with a bride on top, but no groom.
She keeps a ledger of all the losses, journals the little injuries
and all the goodbyes. Her reasons are complicated even
to herself. She thinks she hears a kind of poetry in it.
She says in wonder, Now he likes to dance. He plays games
with his food. All day he rides the elevator up and down.
Ready for lift off, he says. Destination unknown.
Earaches with my Mother
So many nights she’d awaken and find me,
her third child, crying at her bedside. My hand
held to a hot, throbbing ear, telling her it hurts,
sure she could make it better.
In the dark of the sleeping house,
sisters slumbered. Daddy snored,
and my mother was all my own.
Like animals moving softly in the night,
we padded downstairs into the dark cold,
the only heat a grate in the floor where she’d
place a folded towel to warm.
In the kitchen, she set a saucepan of water
to simmer. A brown bottle of ear oil tap-danced
in its heat, warm golden drops soon a soothing
river sliding into the mystery of my ear.
Two St. Joseph’s baby aspirin dissolved in water.
Swallow quick, she said, it’s bitter. I swallowed,
knowing the sweetness to come. Her hands.
Vick’s Vapo-rub. My hunger for her touch.
Towel warm on my chest, rocker pulled close
to the grate, she sat. No longer a baby, I climbed
into her lap, my ear on her breast, listening.
I wanted a soft song, a crooning, but heard only silence,
save the rhythmic creak of the rocker. In a fog of menthol,
pain dissolving like the bitter taste in my mouth, I listened
harder. I heard her heartbeat. I heard her loving me.
About the Author – Zoe FitzGerald-Beckett
Zoe FitzGerald-Beckett lives in Appleton, Maine, where she writes, gardens, and collages. Her work has been published in The Sun, The Pen Bay Pilot, Zest, Maine, Sage Woman and The Healing Muse. In 2017, she was the recipient of the first prize at the Plunkett Poetry Festival at University of Maine Augusta, for her poem “On the Edge.”
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