My Mother-in-Law Prays in the Next Room

By | 5 December 2019

I hear her whisper
under her breath

picture her kneeling
over the prayer rug

palms face down
against the fabric.

She hides her hair
when her husband’s

nephew comes for a visit
and smokes lingering cigarettes

with her coffee
and after lunch

and sometimes she shows me
old photographs of herself

as a young mother, tan
shoulders, sleeveless top.

When she wakes up at dawn to water
the fig trees and the blushing folds of roses

I wonder if she reminds herself
that this bit of earth that she looks after

was snatched away for years, years ago,
and how years later it was taken back.

I look for something
we could bond over

no grandchildren to keep us up
trading stories of raising boys

and what our bodies may have lost.
So I tell her about the plant pots

on my balcony in the city
and wait for her to teach me

the shifting colors
of hydrangea

and the ease of growing jasmine.
How some leaves pass

quicker than others
and how some—

when you least expect it

— lift their tiny necks and
open up.

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