The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Robert Cording

Sitting With The Body


Now, I wonder what I wanted.

I’d thought: just to be there, a comfort.


Sixteen days of waiting, and then another day

began, and stopped. The moment passed


from not yet to not anymore.

My mother, then the body of my mother.


Everything finished, and yet the loose ends of living

all around me: the glass of water with its swab,


the needles, the bottles of Ativan and morphine,

the little book of hours for their administering,


the once needed, now unneeded,

clean sheets and nightgown.


I’d come to the ending

only because my mother’s life had ended.


I hardly knew more than her lapdog that knew,

huddled beside her still warm body,


something was different, but didn’t know what it was.

Outside, palm trees waved their Venetian blind shadows


across the grass. The sun held steady.

The lake went on changing to no end in the breeze. 


Hours disappeared. Friends came and went, waiting

for me to call the funeral home, to allow my mother’s transport


from the home of my personal dead into the oblivion

of the general dead.


Death said I could look as long as I liked.

So I did.  But I didn’t know what to look for


or even if there was anything to see. 

I stared.  My mother looked almost girlish,


like a girl caught up in a thought

I could never know. My mother,


then my mother’s body

being zipped into a black bag. Nothing else.




ROBERT CORDING's eighth and most recent book of poems is Only So Far, CavanKerry, 2015. New work is out or forthcoming in Georgia, Southern and Sewanee Reviews, in the New Ohio Review and Image and in Spiritus



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