The 2River View 27.1 (Fall 2022)

Sharon Venezio

The New Caregiver

In the grips of delirium, my mother
speaks a new language:

the window isn’t ticking
but it’s getting darker at the edges

She thinks she’s in a hospital,
wants to be discharged.

the window is like a clock
but I still don’t know what time it is

The new caregiver sits on the couch
and fills out her timesheet. She just arrived,

wants the Wi-Fi password, calls hospice
and asks how many hours to mark down.

You measure time with darkness and light,
my mother instructs her.

How many hours are left?
192, but we don’t know that yet.

The Ocean

When I was young, my mother could hear everything.
The exhalation of cigarette smoke.
My past-curfew tiptoeing. My secrets.

Now she hears her dead mother speaking
in the radiator. She stays up all night listening
to the air, adjusts the thermostat to the right voice.

When I call on the phone, her caregiver
becomes our interpreter, and I remember
the childhood game my brother and I would play,

holding the other under water
so we could guess the muffled words
pushing to the surface.

Listen, she says, don’t you hear them too?
I hold the phone tightly to my ear,
like a seashell, and listen for the rising tide.

Sharon Venezio is the author of The Silence of Doorways (Moon Tide Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the Bellevue Literary Review, Grew Sparrow, New York Quarterly, and Spillway. She is currently working on a poetry manuscript about dementia. website

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