The 2River View 28.4 (Summer 2024)

Sally Van Doren


Six weeks before my mother died
after we had moved her into her room
in the nursing home, after she told me

she was in the wrong place, that it was
a basement, after she pointed to
the walnut chest our relatives carried

in a covered wagon from Kentucky
to Missouri and said, “I’m going to die,
you should take that,” I told my husband

I felt like I was going down with her.
He looked alarmed, but I said I wasn’t afraid.
It seemed like she was sinking and I was

her companion, a kind of underwater
escort. And then, down she went,
releasing me, at the end, to this surface,

where I wake each morning to relearn
the difference between sea and air,
between earth and sky. Do I dare

dive down to find her? No. I reach for her
with one hand and with the other I pull
myself up onto the lines of this page.


The Last Syllable

I want you to know
that when good turned
to evil, in the end,
I did not resist.
The timing happened to
coincide with the period
of months following my
mother’s departure from
this earth, the one where
the morning sun, with
a flash of light and shadow,
imprints a mullion and
two window panes on the arm
of my armchair, the one I
reside in for a longish stretch
of minutes each day, the one
where I place the electric heating
pad behind my back, turn it on
and rotate among the settings
of low, medium and high
in response to my tolerance
in that moment for a physical
transformation from pain
to the ease of pain.
I do seek that out, don’t you?
Apparently not everyone does.
That’s what I have to learn, now,
as a reluctant pupil at sixty-one,
as a love-seeking missile who
has missed her target. Fortunately,
for me, for us, for the last romantics
of our world, the timing also synchs up
with a soft sweetness that occupied
my bed last night. We took
a Venusian breath, we let go
of our regret and we gave in.



I’m the door opening
into her life which is
closing. Must I shut

down to keep her alive?
I saw a window into
a future where my life

involved poetry and art.
This work threatened
her with its inherent

bias toward insanity and
financial instability.
For years, I have hung

onto her shadow. Last night
the full moon came up
surrounded by blurred edges.

There was a bright orb
in the center. I looked in
that mirror and jumped.

A poet and artist, Sally Van Doren has four poetry collections with LSU Press: Sibilance, Promise, Possessive, and Sex at Noon Taxes which received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. A graduate of Princeton University (BA) and the University of Missouri—St. Louis (MFA), she leads poetry workshops for public libraries near her art studio in Connecticut. website
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