The Boat

Are we in port or moving? my mother asks.
We’re in the dining room of her assisted living.

She’s lost her story but found this one.
In port or moving? She reads my incredulous face.

Time, history, and now, place: vanished.
Soon gravity will be defied, if she can avoid

falling. Forget it, she says. Let’s move on.
The woman who stood her ground

and pushed to the front of the line.
Fit my fits to the wall, my face to the corner.

I floated up the seam to the ceiling
that sealed out the past,

inventing my own dark matter
beyond everything under her control,

yet still not free, no matter how much
I rebelled and my confidence waned

when she was not there to rebel against.
I have no recall on that, Mom says.

She self-propels into someone else’s room.
Where are we? The aides take her

on another tour. I just moved here.
It’s been four years. Now she’s floating

in a boat with Tom Hanks and Sally Field.
I’m a lily in lake mud, at once fruit and flower.

At the sight of me she startles and beams.
What’s that? she asks.

I’m carrying my red duffle filled
with her clean, folded clothes.

For the boat? she asks.
And I hear myself saying, your clean laundry.

What she needs for the trip.





Heather H. Thomas is the author of Vortex Street, Blue Ruby, Resurrection Papers, Practicing Amnesia, and the bilingual collection Recognition/Reconocimiento (FootHills Publishing, 2019.) Recent publications include Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureates on Social Justice, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America. Her work has been translated into Albanian, Arabic, Italian, Lithuanian, and Swedish. She is Professor Emerita of English at Kutztown University, teaches creative writing at Cedar Crest College, and lives in Reading, PA.

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