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Mother's Peace

by C. Jai Ferry

Mother didn't expect it, 
didn't look for it
or hold her breath waiting,
but suddenly it was there:
twenty-three seconds
of gentle reassurances
and deep, satisfying sighs.
The orange sliver of afternoon sun
whispered into Althea's feverish room
and Mother was there,
keeping the girl's spirits up,
feeding her 7Up through a straw
and massaging her left hand.
The other children appeared,
sweet childhood sweat
introduced into the sickly room.
Thomas with his dirty knees
and scuffed school shoes,
Elizabeth elegantly tomboyish
in cutoffs and flip-flops.
They breathlessly asked about Althea,
throwing themselves into bed with her,
Elizabeth's arms around Althea's tiny waist,
Thomas next to Mother, still afraid
of his older sister's crumbling body.
And that's when the world stopped.
Did you notice? it murmured 
behind Mother's left ear,
and she touched each of her children
and smiled.
For twenty-three seconds
the intrusive world disappeared.
She didn't hear the commercial trucks
stumbling by the ever-messy house,
nor smell the acrid pavement
burning under the September sun;
no suffocating exhaust 
came from cars pushing for more space,
no erosive cancer
was tearing through 
her daughter's fragile bones. 
Mother breathed in the stale air
tainted with childhood sweat
and let the moment be.
She looked for no solace,
no meaning,
no answer;
she simply was.
But then the seconds were gone
as Thomas and Elizabeth pushed off the faded bedspread,
embracing their freedom 
and shuffling to resume their play outdoors.
Mother watched them go,
then glanced back to Althea, 
lying in a bed with a crease of a smile on her lips.
She had felt it too.

C. Jai Ferry grew up in a small rural town. She put together her first book of poetry, complete with a lime green cover, for a class assignment in fifth grade. Today, she focuses on gritty short stories and poetry with everyday narrators facing not-so-everyday situations. She shares free stories at www.cjaiferry.com.