The wizened husk upon the bed,
tubes protruding from nostril and arm,
and others from under the sheets,
is not my real mother.
It is a faded caricature of my mother
by an amateurish hand.
The green squiggles on the monitor above the bed
may chart the coastline of Kamchatka
or spell Insh’allah in the obsolete orthography of Araby,
but they have nothing to do with her.

Gypsies or Venusians crept into her room
late at night and spirited away my real mother,
leaving this simulacrum in her place.
But I am not so easily fooled.

My mother cannot be fed through a tube;
after all, she did the same for me.
The one who soothes a scraped knee
would never fall down herself.
When I wet the bed, she was patient
and understanding. How could it happen to her?
Her memory would never fail her.
She would never fail me.

She would never fail.

February 19, 1996

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