A thousand deaths whenever I think of her
dragging weary limbs along an asphalt road,
a dumb smile across her face;
plastic carrier bags glinting in the sun.
Her voice is a child’s,
but to see her hunched frame trail the streets
you can tell she’s lived a thousand lives.
A thousand deaths to feel her pain,
arthritic hands spreading butter on thick cut bread,
bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I will not taste her pain
till I have died a thousand deaths.
A thousand evenings by the fire
waiting for a drunk husband to return;
waiting, waiting, for the key to turn
and the slow thud of his boots on the landing,
the sweat that freezes under a look.
A thousand purgatories
lying by their youngest child, listening for the silence
as she blocks out the sound of her husband’s hand
rubbing up and down the child’s thigh.
A thousand hells were she to understand
the daughter is a child, and she the mother.
A thousand rivers running through her heart.
A thousand memories:
laughter in the cornfields, scuffed knees,
fireflies kissing trees. A thousand trees,
a thousand more than she can count,
all weighed down with cherries just for her.
And then the light goes out.
Her mother’s heartbeat frozen in a blizzard of shrapnel
as Spitfires roar like demons overhead.
The siren’s bleeding moan will echo
through the passing years;
her laughter will be hollow ever after.
A thousand nights to trace the smile on a photograph.
A thousand, thousand nights to die.