One-hundredth birthday balloon
suspended over her throne
at her daughter’s dining room table
laden with eats.
Talk, talk, with family and friends.
Mouths like crescent moons in motion,
drink, eat, converse.
I circulate in the dressy, lacy sweater
and contemplate escape
into the expanse of New York streets.
My lips, teeth and tongue
tolerate blather for an hour,
treasure poets’ words,
not prolonged jabber.
I am the stepdaughter
who has come to care greatly for E,
years of battle, tears and peacemaking.
Her death will leave me bereft.
I dread her irrevocable disappearance
from the west side of Manhattan,
from apartment 28E, from her 917 phone number,
from her periodic despondency
and inordinate good cheer,
from her mantra, “I am doing the best I can.”
Why is my best never good enough for me?
Because I’m me and E is E,
The twain has met.
We emerge hand in hand
at her Nakashima table in the dining area
of the living room with the red wall,
on the Turkish rug
woven in rich reds and blues,
the étagère loaded with crockery and hand blown glass
in which a Tiffany vase stars,
like E, an object of antiquity.
Paula Praeger is an artist and a poet. Her prints have been exhibited throughout the U.S. Her poems have been published in Hindsight, Cancer, Visible Ink Antholgy and Years to Live. Two poems are scheduled for publication in September 2022 in Close Up: Poems on Cancer, Grief, Hope, and healing.