by David Huddle

Needlepoint for the church
she did back when she could, a strip
of kneeler-facing she pretended
to do after she couldn't anymore:

now she's never out of her room
without the basket of it,
fussing at recreation hour,
teasing out the same old limp piece,

clucking and shaking her head at it.
It's in her lap when they sit,
as they do after meals,
out by the station,

Mrs. Webb, Althea Fromberg, Ella
What'shername, and the others,
the dreadful others
my mother despises.

But who, anyway, can work
in such light?
this unnatural buzzing
glare that makes these old

fools moan, drool, fall napping
into their trays ... My mother
rises and begins to walk away.
The light chases her
down corridors ... all
the same, this is so ...
and where's her ... basket?

Someone has taken it
again, God damnit,
she hates ... just wants
to ...
When they
hear her crying and come

to the corner where she
has crumpled to the floor,
the aides know what is wrong,
they know what to do.

"Has anybody seen
Mrs. Huddle's basket?"
they call out to the ladies
by the station, because

they all know this part.
"Here it is!" Althea pipes up.
Another calls out, "Here
she left it here." One lifts it

with two hands into the light
and gives it over. The aides carry it
to her, my mother on the floor,
who grabs and clutches

the thing to her chest. She cries
a little more, getting up,
letting them guide her
back to her room, her bed.

They set the basket
on the blanket right
beside her''See, now here
it is, Mrs. Huddle."

At last my mother can sleep.
Under its lid and mere
inches from her hand,
her coiled cobra can rest, too.

Last updated December 19, 2022