Great-grandma Sarah Ellen

She was the one
who pressed me to my knees
at the side of her bed
each night —
a formality for me,
but for her?

+++An offering
+++to Almighty God
+++whom she thanked
+++for my future salvation.

Meanwhile, I longed only
to return to the stack
of National Geographics
secluded in the chest
by the old grand piano.

Don Cadwallader

Though I Leave You, Please Don’t Leave Me Alone

for Evelyn Griggs, 1923 -2017

My 93 years
haven’t prepared me;
they have let me
down.

And now,
in this hospital room,
all sharp edges
are liquid, and
(don’t you see?)
the way out
is a direction
I don’t care
to take.

Yesterday you smiled
when I,
the southern lady you
think I am,
whispered,
“Life’s a crock.”
You watched
a glint dance
in the slant
of my eyes.

But now,
you despair
when all food
I refuse.

My heart vibrates
according to laws that
cannot accommodate
the renegade sleep
I crave.

I am closing all doors here
one by one — the windows too.
This room is darker now
with just you and me.

Light is only relevant
in the place of my sisters
who have passed before me.

But though I am leaving you here
in the time of earth—
for just a little longer, please,
don’t let me be
alone.

Don Cadwallader

The Release

My mother,
who ever withdrew in fright
at every crawling thing,
who squashed with shoe
and gassed with poison spray
the wildness and betrayal
in every black
arachnid heart,

on the day
she left this world,
beneath the California
skies she loved,
wheelchair-bound
in the hospital yard,
where the flowered fountain
bubbled and the setting sun
disturbed a notion
of some final peace
hovering in her soul,

only then found it
nestled in a folded shadow
of her lap blanket
and gently cupped
the garden spider
in her hand
to set it free
beside her
on the cool ground
of the soon-departing
earth.

Don Cadwallader

Far Away From Together

We always waded out
into the ocean together.
I wanted to watch
the way you crest
the waves, extending
one arm up and over,
letting the weight
of the sea carry
the rest of you
over the top,
above the sandy floor,
then seemingly over
the Pacific rim.

But then, one day,
you drifted out to sea
captured in your own
sense of a world
apart from mine,
caught in tides
and currents
somewhere far away
from together,
you left me
to rise and fall
with the swells,
my feet barely touching
the sand.

I turned my face
to the dry land,
to see familiar children
with their fathers
carrying folded orange
and yellow umbrellas
up the zig-zag paths
along the cliffs
of Santa Monica.
I could only think
of the possibilities
of land and the
solitary work
of the earth:

to wait with a lonely
faith
while perhaps
the sun and moon
together
high above
with time and tide
by chance
might pull you
back again.

Don Cadwallader