Grace, Under Pressure


She woke her mother and helped her up from bed
cooing soothingly to the protesting woman
whose gray hair had worked almost entirely free of the careful plait
her daughter had patiently woven the night before
bathroom to the small table in the kitchen
they ate oatmeal
the daughter coaxing the mother to take her four pills
spoon another bite of beige towards the angry slash of her mouth

The only somewhat wrinkled but agile mother did not like morning
she did not like being woken in the dark
and forced from her nest of thermal blankets
she didn’t like using the bathroom
she did not like oatmeal
or this table
or this shapless woman across from her always making her do
this person who called herself daughter
reminding her, always, Grace

The dressing match yet ahead
Grace left the table to first tend their canary
found the yellow fluff of it unmoving on the fresh newsprint
at the base of the cage
she’d miss the bird
even with the extra work it brought
trips to the pet store for seed
and small mirrors
an effort to trick the delicate thing
conceal its solitary trap
and make it sing despite its penned life

Grace delivered her mother
to the adult daycare admist the usual objections
abuse and tears
her mother telling Grace that she was cruel
and that she hated her, always had
that no one loved her
or ever would
Grace stood as steel
attempted to ignore the sting
and not believe what rang as true
wished her mother a good day
before she got back in her car
her vehicle rising up toward the lifting sun
on the span of bridge

The first patient spit on her and yelled, “FUCK YOU!!”
as Grace brought him his morning medication
today, he was in restraints
the overnight shift assessing him
a danger to self or others
the next room, painted in vomit
she tried to keep smiling as she walked
from nurses’ station to her four assigned rooms
on the psychatric ward
Grace quietly reciting her mantra to herself:
“Compassion. It must be so hard to live like that.”

She tended from dark to dark
with no end
of mirrors
of the waiting newsprint

October 31, 2014
Julie Ayers


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