THE STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE
The day starts early,
Sweeping the kitchen floor
Because of the ants.
My mother is still asleep, but drenched in sweat,
When she wakes up I will help her out of bed
Despite the pain,
Strip her down,
Find a fresh nightgown for her,
Put her in the shower and see she doesn’t fall as she cleans herself.
I’ve already had breakfast,
So I make her some.
But she doesn’t eat it.
She’ll be dead soon, she says, so what’s the point?
The cat has been fed and watered,
So I put the laundry on,
Since her sheets needs washing after the night-bathe of sweat.
Dressing her takes a while
Because she can’t get her arms above her head,
Because of the pain,
Because the new underpants are the wrong colour.
I hang up the sheets,
Put her in front of the television after swallowing pills
And giving her a heat pack
Because of the pain.
Kneeling before her to tie the heat pack on is like doing worship.
She falls asleep in front of the television,
Which gives me a little while
To do the things that must be done
We spend the afternoon among her hallucinations,
Discussing her friends and our family,
Whose side am I on?
(I’ve no idea,
Since there are no sides.)
“I’m on your side, of course.”
She asks me why my mouth is black
(It isn’t, but this is her fantasy, remember)
So I wipe my mouth.
She wants to know why there were only six roses
On the cat’s grave.
(The cat is curled up asleep at her feet,
Alive and well.)
I make dinner, and she goes to bed early
I keep her door open and the bathroom door and my own.
So she can wake me in the middle of the night
To help her out of bed.
At two o-clock we are awake again
Because her room is full of spiders
That aren’t there.