The report reads: "moderate dehydration 
& malnutrition; hypoalbuminemia;
hypokalemia; degenerative osteoarthritis,
lumbar." Which means she'd gone
months without having enough to drink
or eat; not enough protein, only
rolls of bread she'd furtively stash
below the collar of her dress
in the thin, bowed cavity of her chest,
then take tiny bites from. This same
woman, whose idea of extravagance
was throwing a whole stick of butter
into the pasta sauce; buying two
pairs of shoes at once, or taking
her sweet time at the dressing table
while everyone else waited in the car.
And the people who lived with her
for more than three decades after
my father died: kin that fleeced and
deliberately took from her what's still
rightfully hers, draining the coffers.
She doesn't know they've occupied
her rooms, spirited away her marble
end-tables and who knows what other
bits of furniture and possessions.
It took her more than half
an hour to recognize who I was;
then, drifted in and out of small
lucidities followed by exclamations
and tears. I wrapped a woolen shawl
around her shoulders before I had
to leave again—I'm told even that
somehow disappeared. Now
she's in a home with others like her,
white hair blooming atop such slender
stalks. They wait for a nurse to feed
or bathe them, take them out into
the sunshine. You can see
something proud in her, still;
despite the broken record of speech.
She can hold her head in that old way
so her chin juts out, sharp
as in the days when time
had not yet pressed all of us
like creased flowers in its palm.

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