by Scott Cairns
—poem for my mother
I knew that she was dying. She
also knew, had said as much, just
some moments before her final
words to me. The several nurses
returned every hour or so
to note my mother’s labored
progress. Arvo Pärt’s Alina
sweetened the room. I gave her yet
another sip of water, smoothed
her cooling brow, and studied her
bright face, her throat’s diminished pulse.
When my voice would let me,
I said aloud my only prayer.
Her last words were not to me. She
raised her arms, and made a final
plea, saying roughly take me home.
Scott Cairns is Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Missouri and directs the low-residency MFA program at Seattle Pacific University. His most recent collections are Idiot Psalms (2014) and Slow Pilgrim (2015). His spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, was reprinted in 2016.