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A Last Path

by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

We lean
against our mother's
hospice bed
Together again
on a different journey
When we were little
We traveled
the dark streets
of Brooklyn
counting the
Christmas lights
We huddled together
in the back of the car
the worsted wool of our coats
scratching our cheeks
we drew
stick figures
on the frosted glass
squat houses
brick chimneys
plumes of smoke
curved lanes
limbs of trees
dots of stars
and in the spring
in yellow pollen
dust and city dirt
was our world and
the loops and
curves of our names
traced on the glass
Now we gaze
at our mother
her cheeks still pink
her flesh still warm
we count her ebbing gasps
One eye opens
She stares
A bloodhound stare
We close the lid
We know
her breath slows
Later I remember
the darkened streets
the frosted glass
our breath drawing
clouds on the window
two children
huddled against the cold
imagining the immeasurable
distance between stars.

Jan is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of English at SUNY New Paltz. Her poetry has been published in such journals as The Cream City Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Chiron Rerview, and Home Planet News. I also have had two poetry volumes published by the Edwin Mellen Press: We Speak in Tongues (1991) and She Had This Memory (2000).