Woman Grows Old 

by Mary Ann Wehler, Troy

Walking in Lucca in the pouring
rain I hear my mother, You’ll catch cold.
Doctors claim it’s not true.

Walking in Lucca in the pouring rain
I begin to cough. Ten days later,
the doctor says pneumonia.

The kitchen floor was clean the day
we left. Today, my weak hand
drops a pill. It rests in a cobweb

hammock. My fingers tangle in the silk
struggle to free the medicine.
Determination of an unthwarted spider

rings in my mind with my husband’s voice,
It takes longer to recover
at your age.
Snow on the ground.


Some things hard to look at, the black hair
above my lip I could pluck with closed eyes.
Why do I love you more when we’re alone,

squirm at your stories if someone’s near?
Ted Turner’s wife left him; felt she’d lost
her voice in the relationship. You correct

me. Often. Thinking some things aren’t worth
arguing about, resentment builds like snow
compressed til it won’t be broken up.

Our difference is an olive seed in the pit
of my stomach. Which parts of the whole can I
live with – love – hate? Which

repels me more, my double chin or yours?
I hear leaves crackle and fall outside our window.
Sun as far south in the sky as it can

go; evening chilled as a knee ache.
Tree branches reach nakedness to January blue,
leaves piled in my garden,

cover bulb roots and mother’s ashes.
Rust Sedum, and stalks of Cone flower
shadow the snowfilled yard.


Blind, he fumbled at furniture to move from living room
to toilet. Grandpa wore the same baggy gray pants held up
by suspenders, long-sleeved underwear beneath a blue striped
cotton shirt. He kept a pack of squared toilet paper in his right
pant pocket, every few minutes he spit phlegm in a square,
wrapped and placed it in his left pocket. Smelling of musty
mold and green moss, every ten minutes he’d hack a huge
hocking cough. Sitting in the living room arm-chair, the one
nobody sat in it was so uncomfortable, bent head to a small
radio, ear touching the brown fabric smelling of burned wire,
speaker turned low. At supper, food stuck in his mustache,
fell on his chest. After I put my pj’s on, mother would say,
"Kiss Grandpa goodnight." His cheeks and chin were prickly
sharp, the musk of long worn clothing offended my nose.
Seeming not to know my name, he’d pat my hand, smile a bit.
I knew him for two weeks; he returned to Washburn, WI,
to the boarding house. Rocked on the porch in the summer,
winter sat in his room, ear to his radio, a gray blanket around
his shoulders to ward off draft. He died at sixty-five.


I see her younger now,
my mother –
reflection in the doorwall glass.

I don’t believe in ghosts.
Do I? She stands
in my bathrobe, watches me.

And then there is a cramp
or something in my chest,
near my heart.

I should call her; it’s Saturday.
Monday, the last red leaves drop,
I remember she’s not here.

Find more imaginative stories and poems ... return to the Summer Fiction 2001 home page

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