by Catherine Zickgraf

Boot heals scrape the hallway. Christine enters my hospice room and lowers a basket of peach lilies and ivy on the bedside table. I roll my head toward my little sis whose ruddy fingertips clear bangs off my forehead. I haven�t seen a mirror. My sallow cheeks must terrify her. My form has sunk into the mattress I spent the last month inhabiting. I nod at her as hard as I can. And as hard as she can, she feigns a smile.

Sis holds a shiny magazine up to my eyes then pulls it back toward her own. Her voice lifts then trails describing the cover, how it promises lessons on sorting old letters from one�s ex�then a flash: the daily envelopes that auburn-haired boy mailed me the summer I diagrammed tide pools in Maine�how to organize my yellowed sheets of poetry, or how to file my Barbie birthday cards signed Grandmom.  And I wonder, wrapped here in wires, how long after I�m gone Tom will keep my shoeboxes of childhood stacked on our closet shelf.

Grandmom inhabits all our closets.  She lived just a few more months after my wedding, She wore that afternoon her pink tweed suit, daisy lapel pin, and plastic pearls.  It was her last occasion to dress fancy before her own funeral.  She is long buried now and lengthened in my memory to a heroine.  Tom bought me her little house, her remainder at death.  And then sometimes when our nightstand glowed 3:08 am, her house-dressed form would near the bed and caress my hair down my back.  When I�d lift my cheek from the pillow, she�d dissolve in the hall toward our bathroom light.  But her soft eyes would reappear with the sunlit morning in the sky-and-cloud wallpaper of our baby�s room.  You know you won�t be able to go back home, blurted my day nurse last week.  Grandmom is at home, though, watching over my small family.

For my sickbed, Tom brought me the faded blankets she quilted decades ago.  Every midnight, when the caretaker swept in my room to check my pressure, I prayed my husband was spread out in our bed and sleeping hard.  It happened last night.  After the nurse hurried out my gaping door, Mom emerged from the floating curtain around my bed.  She reopened and unfolded over me the covers made from Grandmom�s red and blue calico dresses, herringbone-stitched into fans, now fraying.  I saw from my dark room ghosts surrounding the hallway halogens, waiting for me to fly away with them.  I will soon return home, weaving my fingers through the vines on our kitchen walls.

BIO: Catherine is indebted to myspace for helping her find her long-lost son whom she placed for adoption two decades ago�thus you can find her blog there: myspace.com/czickgraf. Her poetry has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Pank, and decomP. She has work forthcoming in GUD Magazine and is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee.