War Bride

I didn’t know, Mother, I didn’t know until after—
when I read that dying’s not the time
to bring up memories.

The painkillers weren’t supposed to put you out,
but you hallucinated—
thumb and forefinger sewing the air,
voice clear, Who’s the little boy in the corner?

I thought it best to keep your mind alive,
so I slipped
home movies into the VCR, propped up your bed,
my commentary forced, like spreading hard
butter on bread.

In those scenes, I was a child who never thought
of your bravery—leaving Australia, family,
the little roadster your father gave you,
a job in his shop. You crossed the world,

seasick in a converted war ship—a wattle leaf
on the roller-coaster ocean—a train blur to Detroit.
How did you trust Dad like that?

You loved each other, yes, but I don’t remember you
having fun. We kids made you nervous. Migraines
put you to bed, while the five of us failed to obey,
Play quiet as mice.
Then, with his Parkinson’s, you became caregiver
again.

Mother, I’m sorry I intruded, yet I’m grateful
we watched this movie:
Holding my hands, you twirl us, your plaid skirt rising
like a flying saucer.
You lift me to your chest, walk toward the camera
and wave, our faces growing large as suns,
your lipstick Revlon red.

 

 

 

 

Karen Paul HolmesPhotoKaren Paul Holmes is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and was chosen for inclusion in the anthology Best Emerging Poets (Stay Thirsty Media, forthcoming). Publications include Prairie Schooner, Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, and Poet Lore. To support fellow writers, Holmes originated and hosts a critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.