Jeanne Wagner: “Picture of My Mother with Parkinson’s”


I kept trying to write a poem about my mother’s face,
but I was using too many similes.

I kept comparing her face to the waning moon, the way
it loses symmetry, the way

our world diminishes it, eclipses it—from the edges in,
takes its wholeness away.

What I’m trying to say, though, is about my mother, not
the moon; how whenever I see her face

in that picture, wearing her new hat, one side of her face
banished inside the brim,

I see her fear, my own fear, staring back from the little
medallion it’s mounted on.

I think of how she posed there, unsmiling, alone, waiting
to see a ghost of herself,

a passive light looking back, the stricken eyes, the muscles
going dumb,

her pale skin austere, yet slack; the first signs just starting
to appear of what

doctors called a muscle freeze, a mask, but I thought was
the moon in a cloche hat.

Jeanne Wagner is the winner of several national awards, most recently the Arts & Letters Award, The Sow’s Ear Chapbook Prize and the Sow’s Ear prize for an individual poem. Her poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review and Hayden’s Ferry. Her first book, The Zen Piano-mover won the Stevens Manuscript Prize, Her most recent book, In the Body of Our Lives, was released by Sixteen Rivers press in 2011.

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