Elegy for My Mother


You found your death 
as the moon decayed behind the horizon 
and your grandson slept in a bed infected with dreams. 
You had fought it when you were four, 
a carve of glass connecting your wrist to your brother’s hand. 
At twenty you hid in the corridors of Silver Hills. 
You had always known where it was. 
You saw it when you dreamt of Venezuela, dreamt of your childhood. 
When your husband died you met with it 
in dark corners of restaurants, 
and drank with it as your liver failed. 
When you tired of its company you sent it out 
to wait for you in an ordinary hotel room, 
to wait as ascites bloated your skin 
and jaundice discolored your eyes. 
You grew empty, forgetting it with the same care 
you took to forget yourself. 
It waited, under frayed blankets, 
between sheets that smelled of stiffness. 
It waited as the air conditioner gurgled night in that room, 
where nobody knew you. 


My son wants to visit the place he last saw you. 
He wants to remember the coffee colored ground 
and the autumn air that was against his cheeks 
when we buried you. 
He believes he will remember your floral print, 
that memories grow like dandelions 
from the soil. 
That first winter, under snow, the ground compacted, 
and there is now a hollow in the earth above you. 
The trees still dress in shadows, 
and the beautiful stubble of grass has begun to grow again, 
but there is no marker, 
there are no flowers. 

That day your hands held the color of dusk,
your knuckles bent stiffly, fingers woven into each other, 
and your wrists were too thin to have held an infant. 
They were not your hands. 
I remember how the hair was brushed away 
from your face, gray roots like rage. 
Fluids that had filled your face 
and thinned your lips, 
now pulled away. 
There was no more bloat around your eyes, 
no more rounded jaw. 
Bones cut chevron cheeks, your forehead was flat 
and free of years, there was a thin-boned nose of a girl gone 
before I was born. 
This was a face I had never known, 
that existed only in photographs, 
that looked more like me, than you. 
This was a face that was free to forgive. 
This face was yours, before you forgot who you were, 
it had always been yours. 


Fifteen years, and I still dream 
that in the middle of life you will return. 
In a field of tall grass you will arrive, 
as from a long trip, and lead me into a house 
I have never seen. The yard will be hidden in flowers, 
and you will talk of the way the night looks 
emptier now or how snow collects 
in small hollows of the earth. 
When we talk of your grandchildren, 
you will smile the way you did before I was born, 
and even the mention of your husband 
will not make you forget yourself again. 
You will tell stories of mango trees 
plucked on the way to school, 
and men who drew your body as struggling artists. 
My ears will be filled only with your voice, 
until I ask where you have been, 
and you will turn away, into the house, 
leaving simply the sound of the grass 
holding hands with the moon.

CHRISTIAAN SABATELLI holds an MFA, in poetry, from the University of Florida. While at UF he completed his thesis under the guidance of William Logan. He also holds an MA in Literature and an MAT in secondary education, both from SUNY New Paltz. His poems have appeared in many national publication, including Writer’s JournalA Gathering of TribesNew CollageStar*Line, The Sierra Nevada Review, and The Louisiana Review. 
The Adirondack Review