In the living room of the care home, my mother,
hair evenly white and freshly shorn, has been lifted
into a deep armchair by a nurse named Roger.
On the side table is a bottle of orange juice, glowing
like a gold bar. There’s a sponge cake on a saucer,
its top slathered with butter and sugar. Someone
asks her to sing. Preguntale a las estrellas,
she croons and smiles into the camera: ask
the stars if at night they see me cry.
Though I didn’t know the exact reason
each time, I did see her cry on many occasions
when I was growing up. Big heaves, angry
tears, ugly cry; even the quiet whimpering after
what might have been defeat. After my father’s
funeral, she stayed in bed for weeks—
En esta tierra, tan solo a mi, all alone
in the land of her living. I don’t know
why the bars of this song have come back
to her now; but she is smiling even in
the parts with yo te quiero and que
me muero. Of course we understand
that to love is to die a little until the end;
even as the throat holds onto that small
tremolo for as long as it can.

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